E-waste, that nasty by-product of our desire to constantly upgrade our gadgets, is a problem that we really wrestle with in the design community. The most common ways to "handle" the problem at present: 1. Ship the waste overseas to workers so desperate for cash that they expose themselves to the toxins within just to reclaim the materials, 2. Throw it in the landfill so all of those lovely toxins can seep into the ground water.
Hardly elegant solutions.
In this recent NYTs piece, the debate is focused on who should be responsible for picking it up and managing it. Is it the states? Is it the Fed? How about the manufacturers?
Of course, 'Who should take care of the mess once it's made?' isn't the right question to ask. From the NYTs piece:
Ultimately, said Ms. Kyle, coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, recycling does not eliminate the root problem: the vast amount of electronics generated in the first place and fated for disposal.
Carole A. Cifrino, the environmental specialist who manages Maine's e-waste program, said she hoped the strict recycling would eventually prompt manufacturers to rethink their designs.
"Maybe since they have some responsibility for the cleanup," Ms. Cifrino said, "it will motivate them to think about how you design for the environment and the commodity value at the end of the life."
That's right, designers. It's on us! No challenge too big, right?
photo: Curtis Palmer, Creative Commons, Flickr