Letter to the Editor for Jan. 17, 2013

Mary McKee

Accustomed to turning to the Daily Kent Stater for investigative articles about topics that matter to Kent State students, I was shocked to read Matthew Bertovich’s column extolling the Kindle as a “green” and “environmentally friendly … practical alternative” to paper books. Mr. Bertovich claims that Kindles are better than using “precious trees” to print paper books because e-books can be transferred to the Kindle wirelessly, but he neglects to explain how these trees will be affected when he tires of his new Kindle and throws it away in favor of the newest “greenwashed” e-reader.

Mr. Bertovich clearly has not done his research. In the USA we lust after new devices, casting them off after their two- to three-year life cycle. But we forget that electronic waste contains toxic substances, some of which can never break down, but instead enters our food chain and contaminates our world. Greenpeace International reports that in the year 2000 more than 4.6 million tons of e-waste ended up in U.S. landfills. Imagine how that has grown in the past 12 years.

Though some electronics can be recycled, according to E-stewards.org, a nonprofit that addresses the problem of electronic waste, even when we take e-waste to a recycling center, just 11 to 14 percent of it is even sent to recyclers. The rest sits in landfills where it will never, ever break down, or it is burned in incinerators expelling hundreds of toxins into the air. E-stewards writes, “an estimated 70-80% of the e-waste that’s given to recyclers is exported to less developed countries…[where] primitive technologies such as open air burning and riverside acid baths are used to extract a few materials. The rest of the toxic materials are usually dumped.”

Trees, however, are naturally occurring and can be replanted and harvested sustainably. Paper can be recycled into new paper, or composted and used to nourish the environment, not contaminate it. Mr. Bertovich, is your back so weak that you cannot carry books even to save our only planet Earth from continued contamination? It is truly a sad state of affairs when our country’s most able-bodied young people cannot be bothered to consider how their actions affect our planet.

— Mary McKee, graduate student, Institute for Applied Linguistics