Tag Archives: Electronics

Technology’s Dirty Secrets Series – E-Waste and Technology Pollution

WEEE-Dump-in-GhanaTechnology makes our lives easier. But the world we live in has hidden corners where others suffer for our easy life.  E-waste and  technology pollution is wrecking the environment especially in third world countries. Some countries on the African continent are poisoned and polluted by the technology industry we hold so dear in the United States and the western world. This is the dirt and blood that coats the billions of dollars made manufacturing, selling and disposing of technology. In this series the African-American Cyber Report will expose the dirty secrets of the technology industry. In this third and final article of this series we examine the practice and victims of electronic and technology waste disposal.

The explosive growth of the electronics and technology industries has also sparked a tragic onslaught of electrical and electronic waste (e-waste). In 2012, the United Nations reported that in five years, the world’s electronic waste would grow by 33% from 49.7 million tons to 65.4 million tons.

The third world industry of recycling the valuable elements contained in our e-waste such as copper and gold is both a source of income and illness and death in developing or emerging industrialized countries.

Impoverished people are using crude, even primitive techniques to harvest valuable metals from discarded electronics. One technique used is burning cables to get at the cooper wiring. This method exposes children, adults and even entire families to a range of hazardous substances.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) these children and families suffer from e-waste-connected health risks as a result of direct contact with harmful materials such as lead, cadmium, chromium, brominated flame retardants or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) because they are inhaling toxic fumes.

Not only is the air they breath severely polluted but so is the very ground they stand on. Because of our electronic waste dangerous chemicals pollute the soil, water and food. Recycling industries where workers dismantle electrical equipment with little or no safety precautions also pose the threat of injury.

One of the most polluted places on earth is Agbloboshie in Ghana’s capital of Accra. According to the Green Cross Switzerland and the Blacksmith Institute  Agbloboshie is one of the 10 most polluted places in the world, thanks to toxic fumes, which are a result of consistent dumping of electronic goods.  Agbloboshie has been Western Europe’s dumping ground fordiscarded electronic goods for more than twenty years.  About 215,000 tons of second hand consumer items land in Agbloboshie every year, generating 129,000 tons of electronic waste.

“We estimate that the health of more than 200 million people is at risk from pollution in the developing world,” said Richard Fuller, who heads US-based environment watchdog the Blacksmith Institute.

African nations are not alone as they bathe in the west’s e-waste. Indonesia’s Citarum River Basin in West Java is home to about nine million people and 2,000 factories. The river, source of drinking water and rice farming irrigation,  is contaminated by a wide range of toxins, including aluminium and manganese and tests have shown lead at levels more than 1,000 times above U.S. standards.

American’s fail to understanding of what some parts of the world is going through as we enjoy the age of technology.

A report from the the U.S. Government Accountability Office is a clear indictment of the way Americans dispose of electronic waste. American electronics recyclers appear to be shipping used equipment containing CRTs (cathode ray tubes) overseas in violation of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.  But even worse is the fact that the agency’s regulations cover only the export of used and discarded CRT monitors, not other electronic equipment. So whatever e-waste we can dump on the third world is fair game.

Only 25 percent of  U.S. generated e-waste is recycled. The other 75 percent goes straight to American landfills or third world nations.

The U.S. is shipping used electronic devices containing toxic substances overseas and there are few if any laws to protect these people and the environment in those countries, according to a government auditor’s report.

“Concerns have grown … that some U.S. companies are exporting these items to developing countries, where unsafe recycling practices can cause health and environmental problems,” the GAO report said. “Imported used electronics that cannot be repaired are often recycled in developing countries by crude and inefficient means and with virtually no human health or environmental protection.”

According to the GAO 20 percent of discarded electronics from the U.S. would add up to 66 million pounds of e-waste being shipped overseas each year. This wastes ends up in places like Agbloboshie.

So how do you dispose of electronic products?   Check the EPA’s website or the Electronics Take Back Coalition for  information about e-Stewards, which are responsible recyclers of electronic waste. If you can’t find and e-Steward near you check the manufacturer’s website or store recycling programs. For instance, Staples and Best Buy both have recycling programs.

There is also a thriving industry in the U.S. that buys old electronics or take trade ins. These include websites like Gazalle.com and BuyBackWorld.com. And for the record you can find electronic buy back programs at Walmart and Target stores.

 

 

 

 

Re-Sell or Donate Your Old Technology

pile-o-cellphones-702573-870x400Christmas is done and as always many of us found a new techno-gadget under the tree. Its a great feeling to finally get your hands on a new laptop, tablet or smartphone. But keep in mind that that old phone or computer could put some money back in your pocket or a get you a nice tax write-off.

Re-selling technology is a big business. Thanks to the combined efforts of the technology industry and gadget hounds. Gadget hounds can’t wait for the next new gadget to hit the market. And the manufacturers are happy to oblige. They quickly trade in a smartphone or other device just to have the newest thing on the market. The result is that millions of devices end up for sale as re-furbished. Great devices, nearly new, at a greatly reduced price.

But a trade-in is not always the best option. You won’t always get the best deal for your old phone or laptop. The profit margin for re-selling refurbished devices is huge because the buyers keep the prices low for buying your stuff and high for selling it. Its a simple game that benefits the re-seller. But re-selling your old smartphone or computer can get you a few dollars and giving it to charity can get you a nice tax write-off and a good feeling inside.

Here are the best places to re-sell your old computer for top dollar.

gadget salvationGadget Salvation – Gadget Salvation is accredited with the Better Business Bureau and has an A rating from them. Users of ResellerRatings  give the company an average 8 out of 10 score and the site is rated 4 out of 5 stars based on the 55 reviews on Trustpilot. The company will provide you with a shipping label for your device and pay using PayPal. But the website has a couple of issues you need to be ready for. First is that it may be difficult to find the make and model of your device and you may find more than one listing creating some confusion. The second is that they have a strict standard for getting the best price for your device. When they say ‘like new” they mean it. Gadget Salvation warns sellers that only about 1 in 10 devices are considered to be in “flawless” condition. Most used laptops only qualify for “good.” But their prices are still above average compared to other companies.

macmeanofferMac Me An OfferRemember the old saying; “If it sounds to good to be true it probably is?”  Well the price difference between their MacBook offers and the other sites will have you thinking it’s a scam. But Mac Me An Offer has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

This website requires that you complete some forms and be a little more detailed about the cosmetic and working condition of your computer. Then you have to wait for a price quote that comes via email. Of course the site only deals in Apple products.

amazon-logoAmazon.com – Amazingly Amazon will accept a host of devices for trade-in. You can trade in old smartphones, tablets, cameras, laptops,video games, wearable devices, MP3 players, TVs, movies and CDs, other assorted electronics and even books and textbooks. Your trade-in will not get you cash but you can get an Amazon gift card.

PCWorld.com has a great list of electronics buy back programs

Donating to charity is another great way to dispose of old electronics. Many charities put the electronics to good use buy re-selling them for a profit. Many homeless shelters use old computer and laptops to help the homeless find jobs, fill out job applications online, and various other tasks.

Some women’s shelters provide cellphones and computers to abused women as well. Check in your local area for shelters that are taking donations. Also check out the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  Most of these donations are completely tax deductible and the charities will provide receipts for your donation’s value.

Another place to donate old electronics is the World Computer Exchange. These computers are used in schools in under-developed countries and private education programs. These too are normally tax deductible.

There is also Cellphones for Soldiers.  This  charity accepts used cellphones which are refurbished and sold. A portion of the profits is used to purchase prepaid calling minutes for soldiers deployed overseas so they may call families back home.

Most charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries accept electronic donations.

Check out the MoneyCrashers.com website for more charities accepting electronics donations.

Now you know.

 

 

RadioShack is Selling Your Information

Radio-Shack-Logo-297x300Remember RadioShack? At one time there was no better place to buy your electronics or electronic equipment. They had it all, from amplifiers to circuit boards. Ahh, those were the good old days.

Now the chain of electronic stores is slowly dying and has filed for bankruptcy. For years, RadioShack asked those strange questions like your name, address and phone number to buy batteries. Now, as part of bankruptcy proceedings, the electronics retailer has auctioned that data to the highest bidder. This database includes names, email addresses and phone numbers of almost anybody who has purchased something at RadioShack. By some estimates that adds up to about 100 million people.

And the winner is; Standard General . A hedge fund and RadioShack’s largest shareholder. But not so fast! Before Standard General can take possession of the data a bankruptcy court has to approve the sale. 

 The problem is that RadioShack has to overcome some legal hurdles before turning over customer data. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is opposing the sale of the data because it would be illegal under Texas law. Texas doesn’t permit companies to sell personal information if it violates that companies own privacy policies. This appears to be exactly what Radio Shack is doing. You can find signs in their stores that clearly state;”We pride ourselves on not selling our private mailing list.” Paxton estimates that this data sale would affect 117 million people.

This case has created some strange bedfellows. AT&T has argued that it wants the data destroyed for its own competitive reasons. AT&T is opposed to the sale because it does not believe RadioShack is entitled to the personal information it collected from wireless sales. AT&T is primarily concerned that the mountain of data might fall into a competitors hands. According to Bloomberg one bidder for the data has suggested that RadioShack become co-branded as Sprint stores.

As with all cases like this the court will decide based on precedent or previous court rulings and this case has precedent that cuts both ways. In 2011, the Federal Trade Commissions decision permitted Borders Books to auction personal data under certain conditions. These are; the buyer has to be in the same business, have the same privacy policy and the data is sold alongside other assets. Standard General is planning to keep some RadioShack stores open and may argue that it’s putting the data to similar uses. 

But again; not so fast. A 2000 FTC lawsuit stopped a bankrupt Toysmart.com from selling its customer database. The database was eventually destroyed.

Breaking It Down

Everyone who has ever bought something from RadioShack needs to be aware of this. I see a problem when it comes to having my name, address and other information sold like any other asset of a bankrupt company and here’s why? First of all its my information and I’m not getting a cut of the pie. I personally think that a lot of information sales would cease if one nasty lawyer decided to file a class action lawsuit demanding a price for information sold from its original collector. The deal would work like this. If I decided to give you my information with the understanding that you have assured me that  you would not sell it then we have an agreement. That is what RadioShack did. Now RadioShack has decided to sell the information violating our agreement. So where is my share of the money? 

If your information is in RadioShack’s database, and there are plenty of black people who shop at “The Shack”, then you need to be concerned. If that data base is sold then you can expect to have an increase in direct mail advertisements, spam, cold calls and everything else that comes with loose information. I guarantee you that once Standard General takes possession of this database they will cut, slice and categorize the information and sell it in chunks to the highest bidder. You get annoyed, they get the cash.