Can Industry Help with Recycling?

We seem to have an insatiable appetite for all kinds of computing equipment.  I remember my parents carrying a cell phone the size a football.  I thought they were way cool. Today, my 7 year old cousin has a blackberry, not sure how I feel about that.  I suspect that she is more tech savvy than I am.

Needless to say, the use and proliferation of electronic products has grown substantially over the past two decades, changing the way and the speed in which we communicate and how we get information and entertainment.  According to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), Americans own approximately 24 electronic products per household. So I did a quick inventory at my own place and came up with 12. True, I fell short, but I am a household of one and not a techie.  With all this electronic stuff out there, ever wonder what happens to it? Does it end-up in a landfill?   Can you donate or recycle? The answer is not as straight forward as my might think.

Relative to a few years ago, it is easier to recycle.  Some OEMs offer free recycling.  In the EU the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive provides direction regarding recycling options.  19 US states have also passed laws that mandate recycling.  But we have a long way to go, as only 15-17% of the equipment that we do not want is recycled.  So I pose the question, how do we work as an industry to increase recycling? Can we design compute equipment to help with recycling? What are HP and DELL doing?  What can we learn from them?  If you are curious, come to the LCA panel discussion at IDF and hear first hand from the experts and no, my 7 year old cousin will not be there.