Nobody wants to be the last one holding the hot potato when the time is over; that’s kinda how I feel about electronic waste. E-waste is a really, really big problem. There is a village in China, for example, where people crouch over fires of melting electronic components (mobile phones, motherboards, wires, CRT monitors, etc). Children have sores all over their bodies, mothers have breast milk with heavy metals, cancer rates are through the roof. All of this just to reclaim a few ounces of gold, silver, or who-knows-what other precious metals live inside that 21st-century trash.
I think e-waste will soon be one hell of a hot potato. There used to be a time when you could sell your old/broken computer, phone, iPod, etc to someone looking to harvest metals. If you look around, though, all this buzz about being “green” made it harder to dispose of this stuff, to a point now where you usually have to pay to get rid of it. I can see a point in the future where possession of electronic waste will be a criminal offense. So lately I’ve been wondering about all the old computer stuff at our college.
Our “store room” has basically turned into a technology graveyard; most of the stuff was purchased over five years ago and is very done working. After some research the other day I decided to get serious about getting rid of this stuff before we were stuck with it or forced to pay to get rid of it. I saw that a local recycling plant run by Computers For Schools Kenya lists a charge of 1,000 Kenyan shillings to dispose of a CRT monitor and 25 shillings for a mouse. A colleague and I sorted through our stuff today and we have TWENTY FIVE dead computer monitors, that’s 25,000 shillings (around $320)!
After we were done sorting the stuff for any hidden valuables we made some calls to see if anyone wanted some free (and broken) computer parts. The first guy we called said, “Yeah! Don’t tell anyone else, I will take EVERYTHING.” Some colleagues asked if we were charging and I said, “No way, just get that crap out of here.” I don’t know what will happen to all of it, but out of sight, out of mind, eh?