Between the breakneck pace of technological progress and our voracious appetite for gadgets, we're accumulating piles of obsolete computers, cell phones, and other electronic junk. This stuff is hard to dispose of because it's full of many different materials and tends to contain toxins like mercury, lead, and arsenic. This junk is often shipped overseas where it's "recycled" with very little oversight and becomes an environmental and public health disaster. This is the problem of e-waste.
But here's some good news: This week, we got a new certification system so you can know which companies and recycling facilities are disposing of e-waste responsibly.
It's called e-Stewards. It was developed by the Basel Action Network (a nonprofit organization that's dedicated to fighting the practice of the First World dumping its toxic crap in developing countries). A certified e-Stewards Enterprise undergoes a really thorough audit that ensures any unusable electronic garbage it produces is recycled domestically, in safe conditions, and without prison labor. Samsung and a few big banks are already on board.
There is at least one other e-waste certification system, called R2, and there will probably be more, but for the time being e-Stewards looks to be the best one around. You can help out by supporting businesses with e-Stewards certification or taking your junk to local recyclers that are e-Stewards certified (you can search for them here).
Image: E-waste recycling in Ann Arbor, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from revgeorge's photostream