Tuesday, July 11, 2006

WEEE Man, Still Tiny

The WEEE Man is a sculpture made out of the average amount of electronic junk that a typical UK citizen will throw away during their lifetime. He was created to raise awareness of the eWaste problem, but apparently it's harder to recycle electronics than one would think. The stuff is just too integrated, it can't be taken apart easily. This reminds me of eating blues crabs in the shell - a lot of work for very little meat.

My takeaway from this article is that the 'recycling hierarchy' - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - is very, very important when is comes to electronic stuff. It seems like Recycling is the primary focus of most of these schemes, yet it is clearly the most ineffective from a sustainability perspective. However, from an economic perspective, it is probably the best because you can keep reselling the same stuff to people over and over.

Reduce, Reuse - when do you ever hear about these items? Drawing on 38 years of experiences, I can hardly think of any examples, in any situations. We reuse lunch trays at the cafeteria. We reuse auto parts. I just bought reused cup holders for my Passat - the originals were, and I kid you not, $150 dollars new. And sometimes I hear about water shortages where a pleas is made to reduce the amount of water being used. That's pretty much it, every thing is recycle, re-cycle, re-cycle. Run it through the system again.

Reduce and reuse are hard because it often creates winners and losers. If you reduce something, ther's going to be a power shift, and that's going to be resisted. If you tell your IT department that they have to pay for the electricity and recycling costs for the equipment they buy, they won't like it. You are reducing their budget to reduce costs. But really, it's the only way that works.

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