Sunday, May 3, 2009
E-Waste (or electronic waste) is a growing problem as new technology is constantly emerging and changing. Your once ultra-modern and trendy touch cellphone,Ipod,or DVD player may be obsolete by next year, or even in a matter of months. Quickly changing trends in electronics create a vicious cycle which gets consumers to buy a product, and later rebuy a similar product with the same concepts but with "upgraded" modifications or functions.
In Kawamura's Fashion-ology it states that "The consumer never finds a resting place...but must keep buying and discarding, picking up and dropping items, perpetually on the move to keep one jump ahead of the common heard..." (Kawamura 2006.) However being one step-ahead of the rest seems to come at a price to the environment and to those overseas, as we create more wastes when we dispose our electronics.
According to the EPA less than 20% of all electronic waste is recycled, with many headed to our landfills contaminating them with lead and other harmful toxins. (For more info on E-waste disposal click here.) Unfortunately most of our e-waste are sent to salvage yards in developing nations such as China, India, and Kenya where laborers extract the materials which are extremely harmful to their health. Brokers ship these loads to salvagers overseas, who are paid low wages and are exposed to toxins similar to the conditions of sweatshop laborers described in "Santa's Sweatshop".
Last Fall, in an effort to reuse and be sustainable with old used electronics, I decided to create a table out of a cupboard door, speakers, VHS and cassette tapes.
The legs of the table are made of Speakers, the table top is of VHS and Cassette Tapes glued onto the cupboard door, while coasters were made of old vinyl records. The speakers on the table actually work, so during parties we hook up a second set of speakers (in the middle) and a radio to it.
The cassette and VHS table top. The table signifies rapidly changing technology, as both of these items are rarely used today. Interestingly enough vhs & cassettes are now considered "vintage" so displaying and reusing them with the table serves as a good conversation piece at the apartment.
So during the Compact Challenge, before disposing your old CD's, phones, VCR's etc. try reusing them into something new! If that doesn't work try giving them away to someone in need or properly recycle them in an e-waste facility (specifically one that you researched, who does not ship their materials overseas.)
Hope this helps! good luck everyone!
-Elaine de Lara
Kawamura, Yuniya. Fashion-ology.
Holstein, Palmer, Ur-Rehman and Ito."Santa's Sweatshop: In a Global Economy, it's Hard to Know Who Made Your Gift-and Under What Conditions."