What Do I Really Know?: My Failed Knowledge About Electronic Recycling

Every quarter we are fortunate enough to have students from Stanford University intern here at SVTC.  In the upcoming weeks, the students will be blogging about their experiences at SVTC and their thoughts about e-waste and sustainable technology.

What Do I Really Know?: My Failed Knowledge About Electronics Recycling

It was a simple question. Frustratingly simple. And one that should have been easy.

But I didn’t know the answer.

“What do I do with this?” my roommate asked me yesterday, holding up a used printer cartridge he needed to dispose of.

As an Earth Systems major and a committed environmentalist, surely, I would be a reliable source of information on such a topic. Of course the kid who’s always reminding you to turn your lights off would know where to recycle a printer cartridge.

But when I racked my brains, I came up completely empty. The recycling that goes on in my life generally starts and ends with the blue bin beneath my bed. You sort the paper from the plastic and take it to the big green bins by the dumpster. Tell other people to follow your simple footsteps, and you can pat yourself on the back for a successful round of greenness.

But electronics recycling, gosh, how does that happen? As I lingered in my guilt, unable to address my roommate’s query, I realized the problem was deeper. I had a pile of batteries in my bottom drawer, waiting for me to get around to figuring out what to do with them. I hadn’t ever had to discard a bigger appliance like a tv or computer, but I was pretty sure such a situation would leave me equally lost.

And I call myself an environmentalist.

Thus, my printer cartridge encounter served to highlight my own ignorance and consequently validate the mission of SVTC. Electronics waste builds everywhere all the time, yet few people seem to know what to do with it. While paper and plastic can be recycled around every corner and in every dorm room, recycling any sort of technology takes far more initiative and effort. So much so that it is difficult to imagine the average person making that effort, even if it would mean avoiding toxic waste pollution.

What’s ironic is that the process was really easy after all. As it turns out, a few clicks on Google was all it took to find the locations of both battery and printer cartridge recycling on the first floor of my dorm building. For bigger items, the website also included links to the Santa Clara County’s “List of Approved Collectors of Covered Electronic Waste. To ensure these collectors engaged in responsible recycling, all it took was visiting SVTC’s webpage http://www.computertakeback.com/recycling/find_a_resp onsible_recycler.htm.

My cartridge and batteries now rest safely in those locations, sparing the world of their toxicity. I really should have been a lot more used to that process.

Ishan Nath

Written by Ishan Nath, a sophomore at Stanford studying Earth Systems and Economics.

Tags: , , |