Recycling
In the increasingly recycling-obsessed city where I live (Toronto), we’re being forced (aka blackmailed) to diligently separate our trash into three piles: one for recycling (newspapers, glass, plastic containers, etc.), one for composting (food, diapers, coffee grounds) and one for everything else.

It’s time-consuming, takes some effort and can often be messy but the vast majority of people go with the flow because it’s seen as the right thing to do.

Amid this recycling frenzy, it’s amazing and troubling to see how many consumer electronics products (computers, printers, televisions, monitors, cell phones) are thrown into the garbage. As prices decline for many products, their life spans get shorter and shorter. Last year’s cool cell phone is suddenly passe so what happens when you buy a new one: throw the old one in the garbage with little or no thought about the consequences. The same goes for computers, monitors, iPods, etc.

It’s like the environment/green movement isn’t taking root in the land of consumer electronics – and sadly many consumers are not chomping at the bit to demand recycling given they’re more concerned about in with the new and out with the old.

Consider these facts: According to Statistics Canada, more than 275,000 tonnes of consumer electronics go into Canadian landfills every year, while the U.S scraps about 400 million consumer electronics products a year.

This attitude and behavior has to change, and it must change soon. With taking care of the environment becoming more important, landfill sites for garbage becoming more scarce, and recycling the right thing to do, consumer electronic makers need to start getting aggressively green otherwise governments will start thinking green for them.

Somehow, programs need to be created so significantly more consumer electronics are recycled as opposed to thrown out. Maybe it’s the creation of more recycling depot or maybe it’s the launch of brown boxes for curb-side collection of consumers electronics to complement the blue boxes nearly every community is aggressively rolling out.

In Ontario, it’s interesting to see the provincial government start to publicly consider about levying a recycling fee on everything from cell phones to televisions. If enacted, these fees would generate $62-million and see 650 depots open across the province. While some claim it’s just another tax, it’s really just a logical step in the right direction.

If enough stuff is collected, it would generate enough demand for more recycling plants to be built, which strikes me as a much better way to deal with mountains of consumer electronics than shipping it overseas to small towns in China.

More: PC Magazine put together a list of 48 clean tips and facts, which makes for an interesting read. If you want an interesting insight into the consumption cycle, check out this video called the Story of Stuff.

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