> James Kao
> The Growing E-Waste Crisis
>James Kao is the founder, president and CEO of Palo Alto-based
>GreenCitizen, Inc., an innovator in the responsible recovery, recycling
>and accountability of end-of-life electronics.  He is an experienced CEO
>with a successful track record of delivering results in startup and Fortune
>500 environments. Over the course of his career, Kao has raised over
>$24 million of funding to support several startup companies including
>Managize, a supply chain management company later sold to Escalate,
>Inc., and eALITY, a business process enterprise software firm.  He has
>held management positions with Oracle, HP and IBM.
>Every year, an estimated 400 million units of obsolete electronics are
>scrapped; this figure will rise to three billion units by 2010. While advances
>in technology continue to improve and enrich our lives, shorter product
>lifecycles mean an increasing stockpile of end-of-life equipment that needs
>to be managed. When discarded, much of this equipment ends up in
>landfills in the US, or is exported to third world countries.  This is a global
>problem and it's enormous: from collection, to responsible de-manufacturing,
>to finding new uses of the recycled materials, to inventing new sustainable
>materials that do not deplete the Earth's resources or cause toxic harm to
>the environment.  
>Before founding GreenCitizen, Kao traveled around the world for three years
>investigating the e-waste crisis.  He attended the Basel Action Network
>Conference, discussed best practices with European Union top officials and
>scientists, visited facilities in the US and Taiwan, and learned about how
>Japan's and Korea's collection systems work.  He brings his thinking on
>global best practices to bear on the situation in the US and will speak
>about his vision for how government, enterprise and individuals can--and
>must--take a shared approach to solving this problem.

James Kao began his talk by explaining that he had studied the e-waste problem on a hobby basis for years before opening the doors to GreenCitizen.  He described the highly advanced system in Germany, where every manufacturer has to take responsibility for the end of life disposal of every product they make via the retailers that sell it and take it back for them. Then he talked about South Korea, where the three biggest electronics manufacturers divided up the country into three districts, and each of them is responsible for recycling in one of those. When he described the toxic mess that is China's electronic scavenging system based on imported e-waste from places like here, he said "there needs to be more accountability in the system."

GreenCitizen opened it's doors on Earth Day this year. The recycling services the place provides are based on four pillar: convenience, accountability, savings, and safety. For convenience, they are open seven days a week, starting at 11 AM at 3180 Park Blvd., right behind Fry's. You can drop off your old box and pick up a new one on the same trip. Businesses can also get stuff picked up. Accountability is emphasized throughout the GreenCitizen organization. Ask at the center and they will provide detailed explanations of where the pieces of your recycled electronics go. Nothing is wasted, and all of it goes to reputable vendors that mine it thoroughly for reusable components. For savings, GreenCitizen has competitive prices, and they will take California-sourced CRT monitors (such as TV sets or computer monitors) and laptops at no charge.  Everybody's safety is enhanced when e-waste is recycled instead of dropped into a landfill to drip toxins into the water table.

A typical customer will drop by the first time and learn about the place, maybe because they were on their way to Fry's Electronics or whatever. They will gather information and maybe take some fliers. On the second visit that person will bring in a dead TV or something like that. Then they sometimes come back a few months later with a truckload of old electronics from the garage.

GreenCitizen is looking for ways to bring the competitive power of the American marketplace to bear on the recycling stream. It starts with looking at solutions like offering "green-minded" companies advertising opportunities in customer receipts, or things like the convenient storage boxes GreenCitizen will sell for people to use to collect batteries and used CDs for recycling. For now GreenCitizen, is still a small company with one location, but as they grow they will look at what opportunities their size allows to create more jobs.

During Q&A a number of interesting points came up:

The oldest electronics GreenCitizen takes in have "MADE IN USA" on them. Slightly newer electronics were often made in Japan, then newer things were made in Singapore, and the newest of all came from China.

In Switzerland they have machines that can disassemble cell phones by recognizing the model, looking up the instructions for taking it apart from a database, and then using robot arms to do the work. In most of the world, human labor is cheap enough that such machines make no sense. In China you can get a lot of things taken apart cheaply when labor is seventy cents a day.  The trick in dealing with China is finding vendors to work with who will honor decent labor and environmental standards.

There are about 4 lbs. of lead in an average CRT, and quite a bit of gold, copper, and other metals on PC boards.

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Tian Harter

I got this link to an article after I posted the above:
> GAO to Study National Plan to Recycle Computers
>From: InformationWeek - 07/27/2005
>By: Eric Chabrow
>The increasing volume of used electronics will be harmful to human health and the
>environment unless properly managed, John Stephenson of the Government Accountability
>Office (GAO) told a Senate panel on July 26; he cited EPA estimates that less than 6
>million computers out of roughly 50 million units that became obsolete in 2003 were
>recycled. E-waste recycling suffers from inconvenience, high costs, and a lack of federal
>standards, and Stephenson quoted a 2003 report from the International Association of
>Electronics Recyclers indicating that the costs associated with recycling are higher than
>the revenue received from reselling recycled goods. Although the GAO did not suggest
>any remedial actions, it did promise to more deeply probe the situation and present
>recommendations at a later time, and Stephenson implied that his office would seriously
>consider a national recycling strategy. "It is becoming clear, though, that in the absence
>of a national approach, a patchwork of potentially conflicting state requirements is
>developing, and that this patchwork may be placing a substantial burden on recyclers,
>refurbishers, and other stakeholders," he noted. Stephenson pointed to a United Nations
>University study concluding that up to 80 percent of the energy spent throughout the
>course of a computer's life can be conserved via reuse. In addition, he cited U.S.
>Geological Survey estimates that 40 to 800 times the concentration of gold in gold ore
>and 30 to 40 times the concentration of copper can be extracted from one metric ton
>of computer circuit boards.
>Read the entire article at: