FRAMINGHAM (08/01/2000) - Another rainy weekend in New England. Perfect weather for cleaning the basement. My annual rummage through our family's rubbish unearthed five used personal computers, which-to my amazement-still worked.
I called our school's technology coordinator to donate my digital relics only to be greeted by this reply, "I am sorry, Mr. Beach, our school policy accepts only working condition Pentium II class or more powerful machines." Excuse me!
Resigned to performing a burial in the local landfill, I loaded my former digital comrades into my car. I was not feeling good about this. And I felt worse when, on entering the landfill, I read a freshly painted sign indicating that my computers were not welcome there either. What's going on?
I researched the issue of electronics waste and discovered that our industry is not as clean as we would like to think it is. Blame Moore's Law. You know, the one that states that the processing power of a personal computer doubles every 18 months. More than 100 million discarded computers are the residual byproducts of Moore's Law, which condemns computing devices like personal computers, monitors, keyboards, PDAs and printers to life cycles that barely reach two years.
There are three primary parts in a computer. The box that houses the microprocessor, the power supply and the hard drive; the CRT monitor; and the keyboard and mouse input devices.
The good news is virtually the entire computer can be recycled. The bad news is most corporate and personal users of computers are either naive about the need to recycle them or just plain lazy.
The primary reason my local landfill would not accept my computers was the CRT monitor. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the glass in CRT monitors contains lead that shields computer users from radioactivity needed to produce images on our monitors. Improper disposal of On the other hand, recoverable materials from an old personal computer is a cornucopia of precious materials such as gold, silver, copper, aluminum and palladium that can be reused to make new computers or sold to metal exchanges.
How many abandoned personal computers are littering the closets and warehouses of your corporation? CIO research estimates that the average CIO reader works for a company that replaces approximately 2,700 personal computers a year.
Where are all these computers going?
My local library has an interesting policy on overdue books. During January, all overdue books can be returned with no late fee charged. Could that program show our industry the way to solve our problem of electronics devices waste?
The Environmental Protection Agency claims the most effective electronic disposal programs are local, one-day events where communities tout special drop off points for computers.
Consider this: What if every CIO reader wrote his or her congressional representative (log on to www.house.gov) and suggested making January "National Technology Recycling Month?" Can you imagine the impact recycling programs organized by CIOs will have on the tens of thousands of communities across America that will host them?
We are the world's most prolific users of technology. We must work together to recycle the tools of our trade for future generations. Include me on your e-mail to your congressman. Let's get to work fixing our industry's dirty little secret.