Waste not, want not

Regional tech users should discard their old technology kit without harming the environment, reckons Deputy editor Cleona Godinho

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By  Cleona Godinho Published  March 25, 2008

Last week I helped a friend move into his new apartment. While packing things up at his old residence, I came across two heavy-duty garbage bags in the corner of the hall. I assumed these were filled with clothes and went to pick up one of the bags. I nearly sprained my hand!

I then opened one of the bags and found all manner of computing kit stuffed inside; an old Acer Aspire PC, three keyboards, an early model CyberShot camera, and scores of network cables. I asked if he was giving it away, to which he replied, "Nope, just going to dump them in the garbage. I couldn't be bothered."

I was fuming.

Here was someone throwing away perfectly good computer kit because he was too lazy to recycle it. And what really bothers me is - he's not the only one.

On many occasions I have witnessed people dumping CRT monitors, PCs, fax machines and even mobile phones in public garbage bins in and around the UAE. Now either these people have no clue what harm they're causing to the environment, or they do know but they just don't care.

Now for those who fall into the first category, here are some frightening facts about what's actually in some of the technology kit we use:

• Many ‘seemingly harmless' old PCs contain a toxic mix of lead, arsenic and mercury.

• The glass in a computer monitor can contain more than six pounds of lead compounds.

• There are all kinds of flame-retardant chemicals and toxic metals in computer circuit boards.

When such products are thrown out, they either end up in a landfill somewhere or are incinerated, which means more air pollution and health problems for those who are forced to breathe it. Even more frightening is the fact that substances such as lead can leach into the ground and possibly contaminate groundwater sources.

According to the Annual E-waste Report by Resourcesaver.org, a whopping 20 to 50 million metric tons of computer waste or ‘e-waste' are generated worldwide each year, comprising more than 5% of all municipal waste. Translation: more toxic air for you and me folks.

Now for those of you who fall in the second category, I implore you; before you even consider picking up that big black bag, follow my suggestions and not only will you help people in need, but you'll make and save some money in the bargain.

First off, if it's in decent condition and can be used for a few more years, why not sell your equipment and make a little cash? You could either place an advertisement in your local newspaper or post it to an online auction site such as Souq.com. This site even features charity auctions, where you can donate your earnings to a worthy cause.

Next, you could donate your kit to a local high school, college or government organisation. For instance, I recently donated my five-year old HP laptop to my high school computer lab and it's now being used by teachers for research purposes. Meanwhile, last month my dad gave his old 3210 Nokia phone to a construction worker at his firm. Needless to say, the colleague was overjoyed.

If you happen to live in Dubai, you can donate your old PCs and related kit to Dubai Municipality (DM) by contacting them on +9714 206 4231.

Last year, the Windows Middle East team donated more than five boxes of out-dated computer products to DM's Computer Recycling Program, which refurbishes items and then donates them to governmental departments and schools in the country.

Moving on, you could instead get creative and breathe some new life into your hardware. Why not convert your old rig into a chunky file server in a few steps? Click here to learn how. Alternatively, you can transform your machine into a fully-fledged firewall by pointing your browser here.

Finally, you could convert your ageing rig into a powerful print server and save tons of cash by clicking here.

You see folks, a little creative recycling and charitable giving can go a long way in protecting the environment.

Moreover, while toxic-free kit might be a possibility in the future, being a responsible tech consumer is possible right now.

Do you agree or disagree with this article? Also, are you planning to participate in ‘Earth Hour’ this Saturday? Let me know on cleona.godinho@itp.com.

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