Old Personal Computers Never Die; They Just Fade Into Deep Storage (New York Times).
The Information Age was supposed to be wondrously clean, but estimates of more than 300 million computers becoming obsolete between 1997 and 2004 pose an environmental challenge of Industrial Age proportions. Computer monitors, like TV screens, contain several pounds of lead. Mercury is another toxic substance found in abundance in electronic equipment. Even with all those people holding their old machines back in a digital purgatory, the Environmental Protection Agency says more than 200 million pounds of old computer hardware are trashed each year. Concerned about the environmental fallout, California and other states have banned such equipment from their landfills.
A shocking report issued earlier this year by two environmental groups, titled “Exporting Harm: The Techno-Trashing of Asia,” contended that most electronic waste collected for recycling in the United States was exported to developing nations, mainly China. There it is dismantled, often by child labor under unregulated conditions, with dire health and environmental consequences.
How about “re-cycling” the PCs to desktops in emerging markets? The next 500 million users are waiting.