IT waste management is nothing but garbage

Garbage in, garbage out? But where to? If it’s computer equipment it all too often goes to a storage closet, or to a corner of your office, or under your desk, or into the parkade. If it’s at home, it’s in the basement or in the garage. If you’re like me, you just have a hard time putting it out with

the rest of the household refuse because you can’t believe that it is entirely worthless and somewhere down the road some piece of it will be useful. Or your kids could use it. I have the same problem with any outdated and useless electronics.

I also consider myself an environmentalist. Can this stuff go into landfill?

With all the chemicals and other non-environmentally friendly substances they contain?

Garbage – of all kinds – is a huge problem in our society, and I mean our’s: Canadians produce more garbage per capita than any other people. And garbage is not only a problem in our cities; it is a problem in the most remote of places. Leaving Canada for a moment to a most remote place, garbage is even a problem on Mount Everest. Here’s an excerpt from an article on www.planetark.org, from May 2002:

‘TOKYO – Mountain climbers from Japan, South Korea and Georgia cleared two tonnes of garbage from Mount Everest in the past two weeks, a fraction of the trash littering the world’s highest peak. Among the oxygen bottles, gas cartridges and plastic cluttering the South Col Valley were bottles left there for a half century, dating back to a 1952 failed bid by a Swiss expedition to reach Everest’s peak. That was one year before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa conquered the mountain.’ That is just wild. People climbing the world’s highest peak to achieve the world’s most natural high and leaving behind a trail of pollution.

And now garbage is a major technology and technology reseller issue, as Howard Solomon reported on this site on Jan. 20. Not even the chairman of Waste Diversion Ontario (WDO) is sure of how he will dispose of a couple of non-functioning monitors that are kicking around his house. “”I don’t know what to do with them,”” Tim Moore told Solomon. “”I would guess it goes into landfill.””

And because of all of the other regular garbage Moore’s agency has to deal with, he says it will take until 2005 before his people can get around to meeting with the IT sector to develop a strategy for the collection and safe disposal of unwanted equipment filled with potentially toxic materials.

By the time WDO gets around to it, according to Environment Canada, 67,000 tonnes of computer equipment will be dumped somewhere and 30 per cent of it will be monitors which are the dirtiest part of a PC.

But thank goodness some people are taking action now. Manitoba is soon to release regulations controlling the sale of certain electronics unless the maker has a disposal plan. And the Information Technology Association of Canada has started Electronics Products Stewardship Canada, which within nine months is to create an industry-driven strategy for collection and disposal of IT equipment.

But VARs that Solomon spoke to were decidedly underwhelmed by ITAC’s plan.

One VAR guaranteed that if the task of collection and (safe) disposal is left at the reseller level, VARs will either bury the task, or bury the old equipment, wherever they can. Another VAR was concerned about the cost, because, he said, “”Any additional cost to our margins is not a good thing.””

It’s time to clean up our acts. Contact me at the e-mail address below and let me know how you deal with throwing out technology, or how much of a problem it is for you.

James Buchok is a former editor of Computer Dealer News and is now based in Winnipeg. jbuchok@mts.net.

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