E-Waste Collection Day
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 computer equipment? Does it end up in landfills across the country? Does it end up stockpiled in warehouses of companies that have no idea how they are ever going to get rid of tons of 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 are commonly used in these products can contaminate the land, water and air.” Similarly, a USA Today article warns, “Items collected at free events are sometimes destined for salvage yards in developing nations, where toxins spill into the water, the air and the lungs of laborers paid a few dollars per day to extract materials.”
Recently, one of our sales reps brought me a very interesting recording of a Public Broadcasting System presentation by one of their favorite personalities, Huell Howser. In this episode, Huell featured a company out of Los Angeles, Ease E-Waste, that collects electronic waste from businesses like ours. Once gathered, they crush and pulverize the electronics into what looks like sand. The original materials -- copper, plastic, glass, and even gold -- are then separated using centrifugal force and sold on the open market. In a sense, this is the new version of “strip mining” via unwanted electronic waste.
In addition to disposing of our corporate waste in this manner, I felt it would be great if we gave our employees the opportunity to do the same thing. If my garage was any indication of the amount of e-waste that a home can collect over the years (radios, TV, toaster ovens), the event would be pretty popular. On July 18, Patagonia hosted a visit from Ease E-waste for our Ventura-based employees to drop off unneeded electronic waste. The truck drove into the parking lot at 8:00 am, and two minutes later, they had a delivery. By 8:05 there were already computers, printers and a TV stacked up in the truck; we were off to a great start. The truck sat in the parking lot until 10:30 am and there was 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.