Old World Successes and New World Challenge: Reducing the Computer Waste Stream in America
This chapter considers the toxic waste stream our disciplinary activities have created and will create and encourages us (technology-inclined academics) to consider even more carefully what sort of environmental impact we will be making as our projects and programs succeed.
The current picture, incidentally, is both bleak and hopeful. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that from 2000 to 2007, upwards of 500 million personal computers will enter the municipal solid waste stream in America. This is a crisis not only because of the amount of computers ready for disposal, but also because of their toxic byproducts, including lead, mercury, and cadmium.
In Europe, computer recycling is on the rise, thanks, in part, to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive of the European Union. WEEE, adopted by EU nations, encourages companies to produce electronic components that are not only easily repaired and upgraded, but also easily reused, disassembled, and recycled.
This chapter looks at current techno-ecology patterns in America, identifying their potential and shortfalls, and, in order to find a solution to these challenges, compares them to similar activities in Europe, with a focus on Sweden, the most progressive nation on this issue. Unlike the top-down approach of the Europeans, American consumers have formed grassroots organizations that confront the escalating computer waste stream crisis. To enrich technological sustainability in our institutions of higher education, we will therefore examine ideas and activities of American grassroots groups and suggest further outlets based on established European models.
Shawn Apostel and Kristi Apostel. "Old World Successes and New World Challenge: Reducing the Computer Waste Stream in America" Technological and Ecologies and Sustainability: Methods, Modes, and Assessment. Ed. Danielle DeVoss, Heidi McKee, and Dickie Selfe. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Online Digital Press, 2009.