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November 15, 2010 – Comments (5)

What the left is talking about now. - Or the best available example of the Libertarian ideal of people working together to raise awareness of a problem and offer solutions without a law in order to achieve a better society.

Wouldn't it be great to get a few billion people all together to safely recycle e-waste without passing a law to require it!

First - the story, then the beginning of solutions. And then finally the recognition that in a capitalist world, since the lowest price often wins, and is most often achieved by externalizing as much of its costs as possible, a law is unfortunately coming.

From Mother Jones 

You can help minimize waste by opting for a refurbished phone (available through all major carriers) instead of a new one. Once you're done with your phone, there are a number of recycling systems you can participate in. To reduce the carbon footprint from ground transportation and reclamation, I prefer programs that handle large volumes of cell phones. Best Buy has kiosks in nearly every store where you can drop off your used electronics. The program doesn't export any non-working phones or components to developing countries, and it requires third-party partners to submit documentation of environmental compliance. If you're looking to make a few bucks off your phone, check out, which gives you cash for your old unit; offers you a free, printable shipping label; and will plant a tree every time you recycle a phone. The folks over at Earth911 recommend this website to see if your local recycling outfit is certified as an "e-Steward"—which requires strict control over exporting overseas, "full accountability for the entire downstream recycling chain," and disclosure on any airborne toxins released during the smelting process. If none of these float your boat, you can see an extensive list of drop-off and mail-in recycling programs at the EPA's eCycle site.

And the proposed law.

5 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On November 15, 2010 at 11:51 PM, AbstractMotion (< 20) wrote:

I disagree with some of the premises of the video.  A lot of times things aren't easy to repair simply because of the size and performance constraints of producing them.  Just the size the manufacturing technology required to produce these devices makes repairing them or replacing their parts almost impossible.  Usually if space permits it, parts are replaceable and it's affordable to do so.


That said, these design limitations are why it's so important to actually recycle these devices.  In many cases it actually is profitable to do so as well, the Japanese have been collecting precious metals from old cell phones for years and there's even a few companies here in the US that do the same thing.  Would laws help?  A bit, but we're rapidly approaching the point where the materials in these devices are too valuable to simply discard.  Likewise many of the environmental problems are another bad side effect of globalization and the poor environmental policy of many nations.  Any attempt to control this would probably be shot down through the WTO.  Overall though many recycling programs are worth investing in on both the public and private level.


One more place people should check for E-waste recycling programs is with their local governments too.  I know here in Fairfax County, VA we have a pretty good program. Since this is an investment site, it's worth pointing out that Fairfax is just one of many counties that contracts with Convanta Energy (CVA) for these services.


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#2) On November 16, 2010 at 4:54 AM, devoish (70.22) wrote:


Thanks for watching and replying. I know that some products are more difficult to make repairable than others and affordability is a big part of that. A portion of that is due to the ability of electronics manufacturers to externalize the cost of safely recycling/recovering the materials at the expense of the health of the people doing that work and the environments where it is done.

It is a political decision to leave those choices to be driven by the "lower cost" as measured only in dollars.

I am willing to help shoot down bad WTO policys.

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#3) On November 16, 2010 at 6:21 PM, ChrisGraley (28.60) wrote:

devoish, I agree about the problem, but I have a different solution.

Why don't we add a recycling deposit to the cost of the product to begin with? (Much like the deposit added to bottles in some states)

We give part of that deposit to the consumer for turning in his e- waste to a responsible recycler and we give the rest of it to the recycler to offset the extra costs of recycling it responsibly instead of dumping it on China.

Murphy's law is contributing to the problem. With that double in processing power, comes a decrease in cost. I can buy a DVD player today for $20. I'm willing to bet it costs more than that to recycle it. Those guys repairing them, don't have any margin to make a living off of fixing them. But, if the DVD player has a $40 recycling charge and we give the consumer $10 to turn it in to a guy that can fix it and give the guy fixing it the other $30 and the opportunity to resell it, we fixed the problem and created a job. I know I keep repeating this, but we have a captive market that is the biggest market in the world. Companies will not stop selling us things because of a recycling fee.

BTW, the computer that I'm typing this on is refurbished. I really don't understand why more people don't buy them given how quickly technology becomes outdated. It's the same as buying a new car vs buying a 2 year old car with low mileage. You are literally throwing money away.

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#4) On November 16, 2010 at 9:44 PM, devoish (70.22) wrote:


Where is ChrisGraley? Has somebody stuffed you in your trunk?

Thanks for offering a possible solution. Unfortunately at some point the electronic product does actually become unfixable, even with a subsidy. Plus it makes a pretty big opportunity for Government to fail by not indexing the subsidy to the cost of electronics. But eventually, when that product does not get fixed, toxics in become toxics out. The incentive needs to be to find non-toxic or fully recoverable inputs.


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#5) On November 17, 2010 at 12:41 AM, ChrisGraley (28.60) wrote:

Thanks for the acknowlegment Steven, but my plan is not a subsidy. Yes, eventually that product is unfixable. Until that happens, our paths will eventually intersect. I want to fix the problems my world creates as much as you do. I think that in my plan, it's more about simplicity.  When that product eventually can't be fixed, we pay someone an incentive to extract what is usable in a responsible way. It's not a subsidy though. I'm not out to encourage anyone buying a computer or a DVD player. I'm not out to make it cheaper for anyone to throw away the one that they have.



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