The Problem of Electronic Waste
Learn more about the problem, and some ways that you can help.
- “Mounting Concerns over Electronic Waste,” EnviroZine: Environment Canada’s On-line Newsmagazine, Issue 33, Feature 1 (2003-06-26). “Electronics are being replaced every day with faster and smaller devices, and yet few are recycled after these products become obsolete. As a result, mountains of electronic waste are piling up in landfills across Canada. Of even greater concern is that most electronic equipment contains toxic substances such as lead, cadmium and mercury. These heavy metals and other substances found in electronic products can pose elevated risks to human health and the environment if they are not properly managed.”
- “E-waste Dumping Ground,” CBC News, Environment / Science Feature Page, video, running time: 18:53 (22 October 2008). “A dangerous underground electronics recycling industry employs China’s vulnerable migrant workers. And Canadians export the raw materials to them.”
- Giles Slade, Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America. (Harvard, 2007).
- Elizabeth Grossman, High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health. (Shearwater, 2007).
- Electronics Product Stewardship Canada. “EPS Canada is a not-for-profit organization working to design, promote and implement sustainable solutions for Canada’s electronic waste problem.”
- Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. “Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition is a diverse organization engaged in research, advocacy and grassroots organizing to promote human health and environmental justice in response to the rapid growth of the high-tech industry.”
- “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Your Old Gadgets, “Wired How-To Wiki (2 April 2009). “Most of us grew up with the Environmental Protection Agency’s friendly “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” motto — but when it comes to gadgets, being environmentally responsible isn’t quite so easy. That’s because electronics are neither easy for manufacturers to create nor simple for recyclers to disassemble. On top of that, laws on handling e-waste are inconsistent between countries, states and even cities. Long story short, the biggest problem with recycling gadgets is it’s confusing as hell for consumers. “
- “Electronic Waste” from Wikipedia.
Environmental Data Streams
A few sources for live environmental data.
- PopClocks. An RSS feed of daily US and World Population Estimates from the US Census Bureau.
- Canada Weather Forecasts. RSS feeds for local weather forecasts, listed alphabetically by place, from rssWeather.com
- Feeds and Web Displays of Watches, Warnings, and Advisories. An experimental service from the National Weather Service, US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
- Environmental Health News. How to get an RSS feed from EHN.
- Environmental Data Interactive Exchange. “Edie (Environmental Data Interactive Exchange) is an online resource for environmental professionals, researchers and all those with an interest in green issues, bringing together practical information and in-depth yet accessible news. ”
- Toxic Trade News from Basel Action Network. (No RSS feed, but easy to do screen scraping.)
- National Pollutant Release Inventory from Environment Canada. “Canada’s legislated, publicly accessible inventory of pollutant releases (to air, water and land), disposals and transfers for recycling.” An online database which allows searching by postal code, by substance, or by industrial sector.
- Chemical Substances Portal of Canada. “How and where are chemical substances getting into our air, water and food, and at what levels are they found? How much exposure might we have to a given chemical substance? What happens after its use and disposal? What might short or long term exposure mean? What do advancements in research tell us we did not know before?”
- Taking Stock: 2004 North American Pollutant Releases and Transfers. Report and database from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. “Industrial facilities in North America are required to report their emissions of toxic chemicals to national databases called Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs). These databases are designed to track the quantities of chemicals that are released to the air, land or water, or transferred to another site for recycling, treatment or disposal. … Taking Stock is an annual report that supports these goals by analyzing comparable data from Canada, Mexico and the United States to present a North American picture of industrial pollution. The report and its searchable database allow users the opportunity to compare and analyze the releases and transfers of toxic chemicals by location, chemical or facility. Users can also customize their search to compare releases to air, land or water.”
- United Nations Global Environmental Outlook Data Portal. “The GEO Data Portal is the authoritative source for data sets used by UNEP and its partners in the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) report and other integrated environment assessments. Its online database holds more than 450 different variables, as national, subregional, regional and global statistics or as geospatial data sets (maps), covering themes like Freshwater, Population, Forests, Emissions, Climate, Disasters, Health and GDP.”
- Severe Weather Information Centre. “The information in this World Meteorological Organization (WMO) website is based on advisories issued by Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres (RSMCs) and Tropical Cyclone Warning Centres (TCWCs), and official warnings issued by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) for their respective countries or regions.”
- MeteoAlarm: Alerting Europe for Extreme Weather. From Eumetnet, the Network of European Meteorological Services.
- World Mapper. “Worldmapper is a collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest.”
- New York Times newswire API. Requires development key.
- World Bank API. Requires development key to access an enormous amount of economic data.
Sources of Inspiration
These links were given to the participants to explore before the workshop.
- Arduino website and Lady Ada’s Arduino tutorials.
- Massimo Banzi, Getting Started with Arduino. (O’Reilly, 2009).
- Tom Igoe and Dan O’Sullivan, Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers. (Thomson, 2004).
- Tom Igoe, Making Things Talk. (O’Reilly, 2007).
- Philip E. Agre, “Toward a Critical Technical Practice,” (1997).
- Matthew Chalmers and Ian MacColl, “Seamful and Seamless Design in Ubiquitous Computing,” (2003).
- Paul Graham, “Six Principles for Making New Things,” (February 2008).
- Philip Torrone, “Open source hardware, what is it? Here’s a start…,” MAKE Blog (23 April 2007).
- Tony van Roon (VA3AVR), Circuits for the Hobbyist (1995, rev. 2009).
- Philip Torrone, “Tweet-a-watt: Our entry for the Core77 and Greener Gadgets design competition,” MAKE Blog (19 January 2009).
- Upcycling workshop at South Bronx Fab Lab (25 February 2009).
- WEEE Man. “The WEEE man, designed by Paul Bonomini, is a huge robotic figure made of scrap electrical and electronic equipment. It weighs 3.3 tonnes and stands seven meters tall – representing the average amount of e-products every single one of us throws away over a lifetime.”
- Jer Thorp, “Processing, JSON and the NYT,” “Multifaceted Searching with NYT APIs,” and “Connect Fire Alarm to NYT Newswire.” blprnt.blg (2009).
Junkbots, robots and automata
- Cabaret Mechanical Theatre. “What is it? Well, it’s not a theatre or a cabaret for a start. It’s a kind of exhibition or museum (but we don’t like those words). So, what is it? It’s a collection of contemporary automata, which is a kind of mechanical sculpture. Nearly all of the work in the collection is humourous.”
- Valentino Braitenberg, Vehicles: Experiments in Synthetic Psychology. (MIT Press, 1986).
- Rodney A. Brooks, Cambrian Intelligence: The Early History of the New AI. (MIT Press, 1999).
- David Hrynkiw and Mark Tilden, JunkBots, Bugbots, and Bots on Wheels: Building Simple Robots With BEAM Technology. (McGraw-Hill Osborne, 2002).
- Machines. Arthur Ganson’s kinetic sculptures.
- Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest.
- Jake Von Slatt’s Steampunk Workshop.
- Mark Weisner and John Seely Brown, “The Coming Age of Calm Technology,” Xerox PARC (5 October 1996).
- Kevin Kelly, “Everything, Too Cheaply Metered,” The Technium (15 September 2008).
- Paul Dourish, Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction. (MIT Press, 2004).
- Adam Greenfield, Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing. (New Riders, 2006).
- Bruce Sterling, Shaping Things. (MIT Press, 2005).
- Tish Shute, “Pachube, Patching the Planet: An Interview with Usman Haque,” UgoTrade (28 January 2009).
- XBee® & XBee-PRO 802.15.4 OEM RF Modules from Digi International
- William J. Turkel’s Lab for Humanistic Fabrication and Fabrication Wiki.
- Ennex Corporation, “What is a Fabber?” (2000).
- RepRap. “Look at your computer setup and imagine that you hooked up a 3D printer. Instead of printing on bits of paper this 3D printer makes real, robust, mechanical parts. To give you an idea of how robust, think Lego bricks and you’re in the right area. You could make lots of useful stuff, but interestingly you could also make most of the parts to make another 3D printer. That would be a machine that could copy itself. “
- Fab@Home. “Fab@Home is a project dedicated to making and using fabbers – machines that can make almost anything, right on your desktop. This website provides everything you need to know in order to build or buy your own simple fabber, and to use it to print three dimensional objects.”
- Neil Gershenfeld, Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop–from Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication. (Basic Books, 2007).
- Harvey Molotch, Where Stuff Comes From: How Toasters, Toilets, Cars, Computers and Many Other Things Come to Be As They Are. (Routledge, 2005).
- Chris Lefteri, Making It: Manufacturing Techniques for Product Design. (Laurence King, 2007).
- William McDonough and Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. (North Point Press, 2002).
- R. J. O’Hara, “Every College a Farm, Every College a Manufactory,” The Collegiate Way (14 March 2008).
- Tad Toulis, “UGLY: How Unorthodox Thinking will Save Design,” Core77 (30 October 2008).
- Open Source Nanotechnology project Make Magnetite Nanocrystals.
- Processing programming language and Processing Hacks.
- Casey Reas and Ben Fry, Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists. (MIT Press, 2007).
- Ben Fry, Visualizing Data: Exploring and Explaining Data with the Processing Environment. (O’Reilly, 2008).
- John H. Miller and Scott E. Page, Complex Adaptive Systems: An Introduction to Computational Models of Social Life. (Princeton, 2007).
- Dan Saffer, Designing Gestural Interfaces: Touchscreens and Interactive Devices. (O’Reilly, 2008).
- Nicolas Collins, Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking. (Routledge, 2006).
- Stephen Wilson, Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology. (MIT Press, 2003).
- Mitchell Whitelaw, Metacreation: Art and Artificial Life. (MIT Press, 2006).
- Stan Krzyzanowski’s Pine-cone oscillator.
- Erik Hobijn and Andreas Broeckmann, “Techno-Parasites.”
- Jim Crutchfield and Ned Kahn, “ Turbulent Landscapes: A Dialog,” Santa Fe Institute Working Paper 96-07-051 (1996).
- Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art