The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that "over 2 billion computers, televisions, wireless devices, printers, gaming systems, and other devices have been sold since 1980." A fair amount of those are now sitting in landfill, ready to leach their environmentally-poisonous flame retardants, lead, and other chemicals into the ground.
The U.S. Senate is currently fiddling with a bill to deal this ever-growing pile of "e-waste," and it looks as if a large part of the burden to prevent the pile from growing will fall to product designers:
[One of the] research aims of the bill [is] to "reconsider product design and assembly to facilitate and improve refurbishment, reuse, and recycling of electronic devices, including an emphasis on design for recycling." The bill acknowledges that the problem is endemic to current product design standards, and many designers will have to take into account the total life-cycle of their devices to help mitigate the gadget pileup.
The bill is called the Electronic Device Recycling Research and Development Act, or the more manageable S.1397, and it's been posted in its entirety online; click the link above if you want to wade through the legalese, and click the link below if you'd just like to read a summarization.
via ars technica