The Cleanest Line


E-Waste Collection Day

E-Waste Collection Day

By Patagonia   |   Aug 14, 2008 August 14, 2008

Ewaste_2Anthony Garcia from Patagonia Ventura’s I.T. department, shares this story about an e-waste collection day he coordinated back in July:

Think back to the day you walked into the office and those nice folks from the I.T. department had visited your desk during the night. What do you see in front of you but a new computer and the latest and greatest flat-screen monitor. You are in heaven as you mouse around and are amazed at the speed of the computer and the vibrant colors of the new screen. Fast forward three maybe four years: oh, how that feeling has changed. You wonder how you are expected to get anything done on this dinosaur of a computer they have you working on. And how are you supposed to see any detail on this tiny 17” screen? Don’t they know that you are going to need at least a 22” flat screen to keep from straining your eyes?

Such is the life expectancy of new computer equipment. It’s a scenario that happens day-in and day-out at tens of thousands of offices around the world, and the same one that I am faced with working in the I.T. department at Patagonia. Granted, we do our best to extend that lifespan as long as we possibly can, and we probably get more years out of our computer equipment than most companies do. [Ed’s note: I can attest to that.] Eventually though, that computer system does have to be discarded.

What happens to the old stuff once the I.T. folks come to your desk and replace your computerequipment? Does it end up in landfillsacross the country? Does it end up stockpiled in warehouses ofcompanies that have no idea how they are ever going to get rid of tonsof what is now known as “e-waste?” According to Wired, e-waste“often ends up in landfills or incinerators instead of being recycled.And that means toxic substances like lead, cadmium and mercury that arecommonly used in these products can contaminate the land, water andair.” Similarly, a USA Today article warns, “Items collected at freeevents are sometimes destined for salvage yards in developing nations,where toxins spill into the water, the air and the lungs of laborerspaid a few dollars per day to extract materials.”

Recently, one of our sales reps brought me a very interesting recordingof a Public Broadcasting System presentation by one of their favorite personalities, Huell Howser. In this episode, Huell featured acompany out of Los Angeles, Ease E-Waste, that collects electronicwaste from businesses like ours. Once gathered, they crush andpulverize the electronics into what looks like sand. The originalmaterials — copper, plastic, glass, and even gold — are thenseparated using centrifugal force and sold on the open market. In asense, this is the new version of “strip mining” via unwantedelectronic waste.

In addition to disposing of our corporate waste in this manner, I feltit would be great if we gave our employees the opportunity to do thesame thing. If my garage was any indication of the amount of e-wastethat a home can collect over the years (radios, TV, toaster ovens),the event would be pretty popular. On July 18, Patagonia hosted a visitfrom Ease E-waste for our Ventura-based employees to drop off unneededelectronic waste. The truck drove into the parking lot at 8:00 am, andtwo minutes later, they had a delivery. By 8:05 there were alreadycomputers, printers and a TV stacked up in the truck; we were off to agreat start. The truck sat in the parking lot until 10:30 am and therewas a steady stream of deposits, filling up half of a very large truck.

Overall, the event was a huge success.

Big thanks to Anthony and everyone in the I.T. department for everything you do to keep us connected and working efficiently.

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