The other day I was standing in a hallway inside the School of Communication waiting for class. As my class mates and I waited, around the corner comes a student with a large push cart piled high with computer keyboards and mice. This being no ordinary sight, and having a guess as to where these items were headed, I asked, “hey, what are you doing with all that stuff?” The lab aid responded, “throwing it in the dumpster, you want one?”I proceeded to dig through the pile, picking out a nice keyboard and mouse combo. The other students standing around followed suit, until everyone, new technology in hand, was satisfied and the lab aid carried out his duty of depositing the mountain of keyboards and mice in the dumpster; to be hauled off to some unknown fate in a municipal landfill awaiting future archeologists discovery and speculation.
This whole scene got me thinking about technology waste. It’s something I have heard of before, but didn’t always think of until I saw mountains of perfectly good computer parts being thrown away. There is a quote about plastic bags that i heard somewhere that went something like, “plastic bags…we use them for ten minutes and they will be here for 10 thousand years.” The same is true of the plastic used for computers and other technology. In addition to the plastic there are electrical components that can be reused as well as valuable metals.
There are efforts in place to recycle some of this technological waste. NAU has a technology recycling program, but there are still mountains of computer trash that winds up in the dumpsters. I want to know more about the amounts of technology waste produced by NAU as well as what if any efforts are being taken to reduce/recycle this trash. I started by visiting NAU Surplus, a giant warehouse where the unused, outdated or otherwise banished supplies of the university are sent. Everything is for sale, it’s kind of like a thrift store for office supplies, dorm-room stuff, and crazy looking science gear. I took a few pictures and asked the manager if I could come back for a quick interview about the recycling program. He said anytime.