Computers and the Environment
While the computer industry has an image as a "clean" business, in fact both the manufacture and the disposal of electronic devices involve serious dangers to people and the environment. Toxic workplaces and equally toxic e-waste (electronic waste) present major health issues. The US alone has over 500 million obsolete computers, with fewer than 10% being recycled.
Many people are working on these issues, and major "green computing" efforts are underway, but the problem remains a very serious one impacting thousands of people and many environments.
The issue is very much an environmental justice one since both the workers endangered in the US and around the world tend to be women and people of color, and because most of the e-waste is exported from the developed world and dumped on the Global South where protections for disassemblers are largely non-existent.
The videos and web sites below provide both information on these problems, and links to groups that are trying to help solve them.
Introductory Video and Written Analyses of the E-Waste Problem
- BBC - Computer recycling West Africa style
- Digital Debris
- E-Waste: Dumping on the Poor
- E-Waste: National Geographic Guide
- E-Waste, from GOOD magazine
- Hazadous E-Waste Surging from Science Daily
- The Rap on E-Waste
- Where Does E-Waste End Up?
Some Groups Working on Solutions
- Basel Action Network A leading e-waste monitoring and action organization headquartered in Seattle.
- Basel Convention The major international agreement for e-waste management. Includes links to many UN groups working on e-waste.
- Electronic Take Back Coalition
- Electronics Donation and Recycling U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Fair Trade for E-Waste
- Greenpeace eWaste Campaigns Long an important organization fighting e-pollution.
- Green Grid and Climate Savers Computer Initiative
- Guide to E-Waste and Its Solution
- StEP: Solving the E-Waste Problem
- World Reuse, Repair and Recycling Association
Selected Books and Articles
Gabry, Jennifer. Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan Digital Books, 2011
Grossman, Elizabeth. High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health. Oncan, UK: Shearwater, 2007.
Hilty, Lorenz M. Information Technology and Sustainability: Essays on the Relationship between Information Technology and Sustainable Development. Books on Demand, 2008.
Maxwell, Richard and Toby Miller. Greening the Media. NY: Oxford UP, 2012.
Murugesan, Sam. Making IT Green IT Professional 12.2 (Mar/Apr 2010): 4-5. Brief, balanced article on the negative impacts of IT and work being done to correct those toxic side-effects.
Pellow, David and Lisa Park. The Silicon Valley of Dreams: Environmental Injustice, Immigrant Workers, and the High-Tech Global Economy. NY: NYU Press, 2002. Best book on the toxic dangers to workers of IT labor in US and globally.
Smith, Ted, et al. eds. Challenging the Chip: Labor Rights and Environmental Justice in the Global Electronics Industry. Temple UP, 2006. Excellent collection of essays on.
Tomlinson, Bill. Greening Through IT: Information Technology for Environmental Sustainability. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010. Comprehensive look at how IT is being used around the world in support of all manner of environmental sustainability research and practice.
Extensive e-Waste Bibligraphy From eWaste Guide: stresses science.