John Pavley: The Environmental Cost of “Design First”

Posted by Michelle, July 8, 2012

I have all sorts of gadgets and computers that I don’t use and I’m not comfortable getting rid of. It’s not that I’m sentimentally attached to these things — well, not to all of them. I still think my original Apple Newton MessagePad from 1993 is pretty sweet, as is my Danger Hiptop from 2002. But you can have my collection of leftover HP Inkjet printers!

The problem with throwing these things away is that computer electronics are made out of poisons. A single phone or laptop or monitor by itself isn’t very dangerous to the environment. But there are millions of devices with computer chips manufactured every year and millions of them become obsolete every year. Computer chips contain toxic materials like lead, mercury and chromium. You should not eat computer chips and you have to be careful about how you dispose of them.

The dangerous nature of digital waste is not a new problem, and way back in the early ’00s EPEAT was created to set standards for “green electronics.” While EPEAT’s standards are not legally binding, they have been widely supported by governments and consumer electronics companies. The list of participating manufacturers includes almost all the well-known brands that you’re going to find in stores or online. EPEAT is a model of industry self-regulation, using jointly created standards instead of government policy to solve a serious environmental health issue.

via John Pavley: The Environmental Cost of “Design First”.