Old Computers: Environmental & Privacy Nightmare

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Old Computers: Environmental Nightmare

Old Computers: Environmental Nightmare

PC Components Harmful To Personal Data, Landfills

PORTLAND Posted 2:44 p.m. August 7, 1999 -- They are modern day icons: personal computers, humming away in more and more homes. But as KOIN 6 News reports, there's an environmental downside to the PC revolution.

It's a dilemma confronting more and more Americans, as computers quickly become outdated. By one estimate, 20 million computers are retired each year. Most are thrown in the closet or the trash. But that's the problem: Circuit boards and monitors contain harmful amounts of lead, as much as seven toxic pounds per computer.

"We take our garbage seriously. We're going after the biggest source of lead and mercury and other heavy metals first," said Hennepin County, Minn., Commissioner Randy Johnson, according to KOIN.

Hennepin County is one of several counties across the country to set up special recycling programs.

And there's money to be made in the old motherboards and monitors. One company in Texas, Resource Concepts, is mining gold, lead and mercury from discarded computers. In Massachusetts, road crews are using smashed up, melted computer parts to fill potholes, reports CBS News.

But not all computers have to end up as road fill. James Burgett, a computer refurbisher in Oakland, California, is breathing new life into dead machines. In the last six years, he's refurbished some 6,000 units, donating them to hospitals in third world countries and schools in the inner city and getting nice tax write-offs for the former owners.

But trashing your computer that once held your personal information may be hazardous.

"The more files you hold onto, the more data you hold onto, the greater your chance that one day it's going to come back and bite you," computer investigator Joan Feldman tells CBS. Feldman has built a robust business rooting out old information from computers. She knows computers can retain information forever.

"There's a tendency with people, when they're giving computers away or when they're donating them or selling them to not think about the fact that those hard drives on those computers are like enormous tape recording devices," says Feldman.

Consumers could extend the life span of their computers by upgrading them, but more often they cast them aside in favor of speedier models. This creates an environmental and personal privacy nightmare, says the network.

"We're a disposable society. The technology is constantly changing, but computer companies are making -- actively making -- design decisions which discourage you from upgrading your existing box and going out and buying a new box," says Burgett.

The National Safety Council projects that by the 2002, there will be more than three million obsolete computers in the United States, more than the number of new PCs for sale.

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-- Ashton & Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), August 08, 1999


Just imagine how bad this problem will get 1Q2K when all the frustrated users toss their bombed beige boxes out the window!

Have not heard if the JIT computer manufacturing industry has stocked up compliant parts/processes. Will new computers that are compliant sell well at Christmas?

Apple boasts a 1-day JIT inventory, and the new iBooks are not expected to meet demand thru 1999.

What will big companies do with their mono-turkeys come January if the power happens to be on? And what happens if there's no garbage pick-up?

Another factor to consider ...

@}->-- 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 3~0 @}->-- 3~0 3~0 3

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), August 08, 1999.

I have come to the only rational conclusion possible. Computers, from the first, were an alien plot! Somehow I knew it. Didn't Kurt Vonnegut tell me this??? Didn't semiconductors always seem like an other-worldly intelligence????

-- Mara Wayne (MaraWayne@aol.com), August 08, 1999.

I can type with my tongue! I am popular with the guys.

-- Mara Wayne (MaraWayne@aol.com), August 09, 1999.

I'll take 'em all, plenty of gold in them thar 'puters!

-- Andy (2000EOD@prodigy.net), August 09, 1999.

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