Hold manufacturers liable for products

Twenty million Americans threw away personal computers in 1999, according to a study conducted by the National Safety Council. This is just a small portion of the techno-trash causing problems for manufacturers, consumers and the environmentally conscious. Someone needs to step up and take responsibility for these materials before landfills become overwhelmed.
$500,000 was spent last year dismantling and shipping electronic junk in Hennepin County alone.
Plastic has been deemed the “most challenging material to recycle from electronic equipment.” Because many electronic devices are made from a mix of various types of plastic, recyclers chose to work with products that use only one or two types of plastic.
Cathode ray tubes, found in TV screens and computer monitors, are one example of harmful electronic components that are damaging the earth. CRTs have “recently become the second-largest source of lead in Minnesota’s waste stream,” said Tony Hainault, a policy analyst at the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance in an interview with the Star Tribune. Safely disposing of CRTs is the biggest expense in the cost of recycling a computer or television.
One cause of this junk boom is the lifespan of many technologically advanced products. Many electronic devices today are made under the doctrine of planned obsolescence, which tells consumers it is easier to throw a product away and buy a new one rather than fix what you have.
Manufacturers should realize the impact of designing products that bow to a “throw-away culture” and make products that will be more durable. Consumers should also not be so quick to discard old technological devices and should look into repair or donation before throwing them in the trash.
Many people are worried that if this problem is not looked into now, it will not be dealt with until it is too late.
“All of the money is focusing on the innovation,” said Doug Smith, Sony’s director of corporate environmental affairs. “There is not a lot of money to be made in raising all of these other issues. They don’t arise until later on. And then we are having to clean up the mess that we made through earlier generations of mistakes.”
Manufacturers should be made responsible for their products and should be forced to take back old electronic devices. The European Commission is refining a proposal that would do just that, beginning in 2004.
Manufacturers can donate materials to organizations that are not technologically advanced, such as schools and nonprofit groups. After that, manufacturers should be responsible for recycling their products or, at the bare minimum, altering their product so it no longer poses a threat to the environment.
Manufacturers should be responsible for their products for the duration of their existence. If a computer leaks lead into drinking water, the manufacturer should be liable. Making manufacturers responsible puts the task of cleanup in the right hands and will lead to safer products in the future.