St. Patrick’s Day was almost two weeks ago, but Tarrant County commissioners just got around to flashing their green – this week they passed a resolution supporting a proposed state law to battle “e-waste.”
For the techno-challenged, e-waste refers to the dumping of computers and other electronic equipment in landfills. In an age when technological equipment is used en masse – and everything seems to go from new to obsolete in a matter of months – landfills are becoming the final resting place for millions of fax machines, VCRs, phones, televisions, and computers containing all kinds of environmentally hazardous materials, such as mercury and lead.
Texas lawmakers are proposing laws to require producer responsibility, meaning the computer companies would have to take back outdated computers and incur expenses associated with disposing of or recycling them. That in turn is expected to make producers design more environmentally friendly machines. Some cities, such as Austin, have encouraged recycling by teaming with Goodwill Industries and providing a place to drop off computers for recycling. Fort Worth is working on a similar partnership. Most cities and counties around the country, however, are sitting around with their joysticks up their portals and waiting to see what state or federal governments are going to do to discourage e-waste. It’s good to know our local politicians are being proactive.
Still, Static can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen to its personal computer after it’s donated or recycled. Will some little kid get it and be able to track Static’s previous forays into porn sites (strictly for research purposes, of course)? Will the country-and-western song that Static wrote in WordPerfect years ago and forgot to erase from its hard drive end up being stolen and copyrighted by the computer’s new owner and then marketed to Toby Keith, who will surely butcher the lyrics and sing flat on the chorus? Will the family recipe that Static promised to guard with its life wind up on the worldwide web? (Grandma Static would have a conniption fit if her linguini casserole becomes an open secret for every yahoo with a skillet!) And imagine if a municipality decides to upgrade its computer system and recycle its old computers, and they are sent to Nigeria, and all of the personal data ends up in the hands of e-mailers with a penchant for computer fraud and identity theft. Hey, don’t laugh; it’s happened before. You try to be nice and donate a computer, and next thing you know, some Las Vegas hacker is emptying your bank account on the roulette wheel.
“Identity theft is a challenge with any program like this,” said Kim Mote, Fort Worth’s assistant director of environmental management.
The moral of this story is, Static strongly encourages recycling and environmental friendliness, but warns donors – whether it’s you or your government – to make sure hard drives are removed or wiped clean. Green and clean – your grandma and Mother Earth would both approve.