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Forward this blog post to friends who do not recycle their electronic products.

Forward this blog post to friends who do recycle their electronic products.

Forward this blog post to friends who do not recycle their electronic products responsibly.

Earlier this week, November 15, marked America Recycles Day.  But for many in the world of electronics, recycling is a way to make green rather than go green.  For these villains (and they really are villains, just read on), reducing recycling costs by dumping trash abroad – i.e., not recycling – is protocol.  Meanwhile you, the unsuspecting consumer, trying to do the right thing, may be helping the bad guy.

First some quick facts:

-       E- waste is the fastest growing kind of waste worldwide

-       5% of the trash worldwide is e- waste

-       About 40 million tonnes of e- waste is created every year

-       20% of all e- waste in the United States is exported abroad

-       500- 1000 materials make up a single electronic device; many of which are toxic

-       E- waste is a growing humanitarian disaster

Second, a list of the possible diagnoses a doctor may give a person in close contact with e- waste:

-       Damage to the bones

-       Signs of kidney and lunch cancer

-       Neurological damage

-       Damage to the reproductive system

-       Damage to the endocrine system

-       Disruption of hormones

-       Behavioral problems

-       Stunted development

-       High prospect of death

Watch this chilling report by 60 Minutes on an electronics dump in an impoverished town in China, where exploited works use “literally Medieval” methods to dismantle lead-laced electronics at a rate of $8/ day.  To make matters worse, guess where most of these abandoned electronics come from? Home sweet home: the U.S.A.

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An e-waste ‘residence’ in Delhi.  Do not try this at home.  Actually, avoid making this your or anyone else’s home altogether.  Photo is courtesy of Greenpeace India.

American citizens, including many who may choose to recycle, are contributing to the mess.  Their electronic devices end up in the hands of those looking to turn a profit, by sending products to be handled and dismantled abroad where labor costs are inhumanely low and human costs are vicious, even deadly. The Chinese town investigated, a “Chernobyl of electronic waste”, is so polluted by rotting electronics.  No one can drink the water without risking horrific side- effects including death.  Even the air is poisonous. Upon entering the heart of the community, an electronic graveyard, the 60 Minutes reporter chokes painfully, struggling to breathe.

PBS Frontline filed a similar story from Ghana and, in the process, uncovered some major destinations for America’s e-waste: mostly in the developing world. (Greenpeace also has an eyeopening interactive map here.)   According to United Nations Special Rapporteur Okechukwu Ibeanu,

“E- waste is one of the most hazardous waste streams worldwide.  Electronics contain over 50 hazardous chemicals or heavy metals that can cause serious health and environmental risks if not disposed in an environmentally safe manner.”

As both stories highlight, even when you recycle, it is important to ensure the vendor is certified: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved companies with an R2 or e-Stewards license. One examples of this is WeRecycle!, an e-Stewards member and YouRenew’s recycler of choice.  Be warned: non-certified groups who claim to recycle may be exporting your toxic junk.

The good news is that people are taking notice.  NGOs, like the Electronics Take Back Coalition, are raising awareness of this modern global threat.  A growing culture of social corporate responsibility is inspiring private industry to get the proper certificates.  Greenpeace has developed a scale to rank electronics companies on their policies regarding the use of poisonous chemicals, recycling, and climate change – Microsoft and Nintendo users, prepare yourselves for disappointment.  Friends of Nokia and Sony Ericsson – congratulations!

Having shiny new things is exciting.  When that shiny new thing is an outdated gadget, make the choice to recycle responsibly.  Recycling through YouRenew?  That gets you paid to do good.  Deterring the formation of deathly e-waste dumps?  That’s a priceless bonus.

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My parent’s new house has a time machine.  The stairs to the basement lead any visitor to a pile of junk dating back as far as 40 years ago.  Much to my mom’s displeasure, my dad is a hoarder of antique electronics.  His treasures include a bootleg radio with 16 inch antennas, a portable 1970s TV that used to play five channels in black & white, a Macintosh laptop from 1991, and at least three other desktop computers that use floppy disks.  Even though he jams double A batteries into everything, insisting that something may flicker to life, we all know it’s hopeless.

This picture is not to scale: that mouse is approximately as big as a plum.

Dad, I have a solution.  While YouRenew will pay you for your smaller, more valuable, electronics, Best Buy offers a complimentary service.  According to a recent press release, the company has eliminated a $10 fee for electronics with screens, no matter how outdated they are.  In some cases, you may even receive a Best Buy gift card for your effort, so you can reward yourself for recycling with a Farmville Collectible Plush Toy… hey, we’re not judging!  Best Buy is cited by the Environmental Protection Agency as a trusted recycling vendor.  It works with certified recycling agencies to ensure that your products are not being dumped on developing countries as e-waste.Congratulations to Best Buy on joining the movement for simple and responsible recycling.  All just in time for America Recycles Day – who else is PUMPED for tomorrow?  (Answer: everyone in the YouRenew office!)

If you have been watching the stock market there has been a lot of news to follow over the past two weeks (Congress raising the debt ceiling, dramatic dips in equity markets, the rise in the price of gold, Ben Bernanke’s commitment to hold down interest rates over the next two years) which is why you may have missed landmark news in the technology sector: briefly yesterday, Apple became the largest publicly traded company in the world by market capitalization.

Although Exxon surged ahead at the end of trading to maintain its status as Heavyweight Champion of the S&P 500, Apple has achieved an enormous feat that many analysts thought wouldn’t happen for several months. It is particularly impressive given that Apple is operating in an industry that is highly competitive and dynamic. It has been an exceptionally innovative company that has been able to diversify its products without losing quality or focus.

It is great to hear that the technology industry is having such great growth, but with increasing dissemination of devices there is an increasing need for proper disposal solutions, so we will keep working to make sure that there is an easy and efficient way to handle the old devices.

How well the company either holds its value or grows is yet to be seen, but I know that I still loving using my Apple products: after I write this post on my Macbook, I’m going to download a few new songs off of iTunes and go for a run with my iPod.

 

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YouRenew has recently been nominated as a candidate in Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s 2011 competition for America’s Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs.

Please vote for us by clicking here, selecting the last slide, and following the prompts to cast your vote for YouRenew.

Thank you for your vote!

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We are all excited to see that the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI) launched its 2011 summer program in its new location earlier this week!

YEI is an incubator for entrepreneurs in the Yale student body and helps them overcome some of the challenges they face starting their new ventures. YouRenew was started out of YEI and we owe a debt of gratitude to the organization for all it has done to help us launch and grow. It has done a terrific job of fostering an entrepreneurial environmental in Yale and New Haven, and gave us the opportunity to work alongside smart and innovative entrepreneurs.

We are proud to say that one of the new ventures is being co-founded by former YouRenew employee Chris Murphy. Chris, and co-founder Greg Hausheer, are launching a website called BookSavr.com, which provides a convenient way for college students to save money when buying textbooks and other class materials.

Other notable ventures that have launched out of YEI include Paper G and TutorTrovePaper G is a technology company that automates local ad creation, sales and management for online publishers. It was started by an incredibly smart group of guys who have proven themselves as true innovators in the online advertising space.

TutorTrove provides a convenient web platform to assist tutors and educators. Their new product, Desmos, is an online community for interactive teaching. With the large variety of hardware and software in classrooms, teachers face increasing difficulty trying to transition course material from one device to another. Desmos is designed to bridge this gap and become a unifying standard for interactive lessons, letting teachers seamlessly present their material via their computer, tablet, whiteboard etc.

This only represents a small sampling of the companies coming out of YEI. I would suggest visiting the site to see some of the new ventures launching this summer.

We wish the best of luck to the YEI entrepreneurs starting their challenging journeys this summer!

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