One of my favorite radio shows is “Fresh Air” hosted by Terry Gross. She broadcasts out of the public radio station, WHYY in Philadelphia. I listen to Fresh Air on my local public radio station, WNPR. On December 22, 2010, Gross interviewed Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basal Action Network about the issue of properly recycling electronic equipment such as cell phones, computers, TV’s, etc. I’ve always known that these devices contain toxic materials and have in the past, tried to properly recycle them. The cell phones are easy as they can be turned into centers where they are redistributed to people in need of a cell phone for emergency use. For the rest, I’ve brought them to a retailer where I pay $10/item so that these items are responsibly recycled. However, after listening to this broadcast about what happens to electronic waste, I’m not so sure that I’m accomplishing my goal.
Much of this waste is shipped to countries such as China and Nigeria where the waste is dumped and then the valuable material is scavenged from the waste using dirty and unsafe methods, such as burning the materials so that the salvageable metal is left. The toxins pollute the air and water. The people working in these places, often children, have to breathe the poisoned air.
I think it’s time we stopped sweeping the dirt under the rug and recycled responsibly.