> James Kao
> *An Update on the Growing E-Waste Crisis*
> James Kao, founder, president and CEO of Los Altos-based GreenCitizen,
> Inc., an innovator in the responsible recovery, recycling and
> accountability of end-of-life electronics last spoke to TASC in the
> summer of 2005.  Since then, GreenCitizen’s convenient, safe and
> accountable solutions to help save the environment from harmful
> electronic waste have been widely accepted in Silicon Valley and
> San Francisco.
> 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. 
> James will describe how the activities of GreenCitizen
> (www.greencitizen.com) have grown since its founding and why it is as
> important as ever that government, enterprise and individuals take a
> shared approach to solving this problem.
James Kao is proud of the fact that GreenCitizen is now a money making operation. Every week GreenCitizen takes in two 53 foot truckloads of eWaste and recycle it responsibly. Every computer he sends to Fresno to be responsibly disassembled is one more that doesn't go to Africa or China to be scavenged and the remains left to pollute ground water or burned to pollute the air.

GreenCitizen has had enormously good luck with media access. During the three and a half years the company has been around they have spent about $100 on advertising. Word of mouth and press coverage has done a lot to make the company more widely known. The company also does a lot of tabling and speaking in front of community groups to generate visibility. Kao showed us slides of kids playing recycling games GreenCitizen had developed to make eWaste recycling more fun.  Over the past few years GreenCitizen has picked up many reputable corporate sponsors, and is always working on getting more.

GreenCitizen generates a lot of statistical information about the eWaste they take in. Kao showed us a chart of the most recycled brands, with Apple being number one. He mentioned that the coming digital transition for TV has resulted in a huge rise in the number of TV sets being recycled. It used to be that all the glass, lead, and copper was needed for the next generation of TVs and monitors. One problem is that now that those are being made with LCD screens the lead and glass is no longer as needed. GreenCitizen is part of the industry wide search for new uses for the stuff.

GreenCitizen recycles a lot of eWaste from their two offices, but it is only a small percentage of the eWaste out there. The company plans to open offices in Berkeley, San Mateo County, Campbell/Los Gatos, and the Presidio in San Francisco during the next year. They have also developed a kiosk that works inside a big box store, so that customers there can recycle on the premises for store credit. James is excited by the win-win synergies that kind of thing will develop.

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

GreenCitizen has recently expanded into computer repair. This extends the useful life of many machines. Also, GreenCitizen likes providing computer systems to schools and community groups at very reasonable prices. The company sells such systems with a promise to take it back at the end of its life at no charge.

The average American buys ten small transformer containing power supplies every year as part of buying electronic products. James Kao thinks it would be great if these things could be standardized and modularized enough that people could get the power supply only when they needed another one. Green Citizen is working with a number of design firms to make this vision a reality.

For more information, please visit: