Progressive politics, ideas & culture


Please turn off all cellphones — and don’t throw them away

This Magazine Staff

Hands up everyone who has bought a computer, cellphone, iPod or other electronic device in the past year. Pretty cool gadget you’ve got, isn’t it? Now, what happened to the item it replaced? Some of us probably threw the old device out, but others may find a growing pile of old electronics filling junk drawers, basements and garages. If you’re like me, the idea of turfing an ancient pager or CD player doesn’t sit well, what with lead, cadmium and mercury among the pollutants likely to seep into the groundwater.

Yesterday morning on CBC Radio’s The Current, guest host Terry Millewski spoke with Giles Slade, author of “Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America.” The built-in short lifespan of most devices is a massive threat to our environment, Slade said, and it’s only getting worse as consumer demand for technological gimmickry means more devices than ever are bound for the landfill.

Luckily there are recyclers who will take care of your old electronics, and if you live in Alberta there’s even a provincial program that builds the cost of recycling into the item’s price at purchase (as noted in the September/October 2005 issue of This). For these initiatives to successfully keep contaminants at bay, though, more people need to know about them and they need to be more convenient for people to take advantage of. So tell your friends.

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