RIM launches Blackberry 10. Apple introduces the iPhone 5. Google chooses LG to manufacture the new Nexus 4. I’m sure you’ve seen a similar headline sometime. And as someone who keeps up with tech news, I’ve always been interested in what’s going on.
However, I was faced with a recent reality check in one of my courses called Race, Ethnicity and Technology. In it, we learnt about something I knew existed but never really questioned: e-waste. Technological trash. Call it what you may, these are just some of the names people have given the mass amounts of leftover, toxic waste which piles up due to our constant—and at times, mindless—consumption of thrown-out, technological devices.
E-waste could be almost anything—your television, desktop computer, laptop, electronic cords, computer hardware, cell phones, tablets and the list goes on. I must say, however, as a person living in North America, I never saw the e-waste as a personal issue because I was never directly faced with it. I was never witness to mass amounts of discarded gadgets. That is because the majority of the e-waste is shipped to other countries, like Nigeria, China and India, to name a few.
E-waste is destroying the population’s health through chemically induced, cancerous diseases because of dangerously high amounts of lead in devices. Furthermore, landfills are ruining natural resources and simple access to water is becoming more difficult.
The harsh reality of what actually goes into the manufacturing process is not one many consumers wish to face. In addition, many people are not necessarily informed about the realities of sweatshops, slave labour and unequal treatment of workers. It is only once we find out that we reflect with disbelief. Some of us even ponder on the hows and whys. But most of us eventually go back to the way it is—with our daily coffees and discussions concerning the newest Apple gadget. We stop questioning and we keep living our relatively easy lives. And that’s where I see the problem.
It’s easier to kick your laptop to the curb and throw it in the trash rather than wonder how your non-recycled technological trash will affect the planet and those who live in it.
As students, staff, faculty and moreover, citizens of the world, we should reflect on the rising need to constantly consume new technological devices. Batteries, included.
Now I’m not saying we should do away with technology. Rather, I wish to pose a solution by stating that we should always be critical of things we usually don’t question.
In regards to e-waste, I would say working with initiatives that London has to offer or even joining larger initiatives in southwestern Ontario, the GTA, or even worldwide would definitely help the cause. An example would be an organization like the Ontario Electronic Stewardship, one of the many groups that aims to make sure electronic waste is dealt with responsibly.
It’s interesting to note 20 years ago, people would be more concerned about the usefulness of their phone or computer rather than a user’s ability to play Angry Birds with an HD screen. Let’s not get caught up in the superficial race of constantly disposing what we have for the latest trend, only to risk compromising our moral values.