E-waste recycling coming to MRU
Old electronics often disposed dangerously
So you’ve just got a shiny new cellphone and you’re ready to settle down forever — or at least until the phone contract is up.
But what about the former object of your affection?
Chances are your old phone’s been tossed in a drawer or closet and forgotten. The same goes for that old TV and the CRT monitor you’re hanging on to “just in case.”
Or, maybe you’ve done the responsible thing and dropped them off for recycling.
Many people choose the most accessible option when recycling old electronics, also known as e-waste. What happens to these electronics after we drop them off is often a mystery.
Most of these items are destined for third world or developing countries where they’re offloaded and broken down to extract precious metals.
One of the destinations for e-waste is Guiyu, China. The streets are literally filled with discarded electronics. Residents of all ages break down motherboards and LCD screens using dangerous acid baths and open flames, in the street or inside their own homes.
Colin Cuthbert learned about this practice in an environmental issues class, and was disturbed to discover where discarded electronics end up.
“Being part of that consumer group that really drives the demand for these products, I felt like I had to do something,” said the 26-year-old sociology student. “I had to take some responsibility.”
Cuthbert had seen an e-waste recycling bin in Lethbridge, and decided to bring the convenience to Mount Royal University. It was important the recycling company be credible and committed to environmentally safe practices, he said.
He chose “Think Recycle,” a multi-national company that does not ship items off the continent. Instead, working items are refurbished and sold back to the public, and dead electronics are properly disposed of.
Cuthbert is working with the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University’s Sustainability Centre on campus to place an e-waste drop box in the library.
“I think the biggest challenge will be trying to make this convenient for students,” he said. “We have a lot of people that go to this school and I guarantee that half those people have old cellphones sitting in drawers.”
Diana Fletcher, Cuthbert’s environmental issues course instructor, voiced concerns with students believing they need the newest gadget on the market. She said that kind consumerism leads to growing numbers of e-waste.
“Why do you need it? Wouldn’t your old one do? We don’t have to have the newest stuff,” Fletcher said.
She stressed that reducing e-waste is not only about recycling the electronics we currently have, but making them last longer, or passing our working items of technology on to other people who can use them, which she considers “the best way to recycle.”