hey I was wondering if you could elaborate more on how you convinced that recycling company to let you go through their E-waste? I wanted to try doing the same thing but I was curious how exactly you did it (e.g procedure, wording, finding the right company)
Hey Antikythira, thanks for asking! As this topic is concerning me a lot, I will write a somewhat longer response to this question:
As we can assume, literally tons of great old hardware gets destroyed every day at those recycling companies or on the way to them. A lot of the hardware is in 100% working condition, or in many cases, was perfectly working before it was thrown in a pallet carelessly. When you go in there, be prepared to go out in a bad mood, even if you find some nice things. One of those pallets I found, was filled to the top with brand new electric toothbrushes. It really shows how stupid our society interacts with its resources.
The most pathetic thing about digging in that e-waste pallets was, that a huge multimedia retailer is placed just 50 meters across the street. Every day people are buying new printers, TV, radios etc. over there, while perfectly good ones get trashed just 50 meters away.
In my opinion it should be mandatory to handle all this hardware with care and place everything thats still in working condition in a storage hall for a month, and sell it of for $1 a piece before its declared waste. It would be fun to see the sales of the nearby cheap multimedia discounter collapse. The most stuff they sell there today is basically e-waste at the point you pay anyway so….
You can do an image search for “E-Waste Ghana” if you want to check for the worst-case scenario of what can happen to E-Waste after people throw it away.
It hurts in two ways: beneath the obvious catastrophic environmental impact, I don’t even want to know how many nice old pieces of equipment lay there.
If the image above doesn’t hurt you enough, you can combine it with this picture of a guy destroying his HDTV because his soccer team conceded a goal (you can imagine, I don’t perceive such videos as funny in any way):
To answer your question though:
I basically called that recycling company and told them that I’m a local artist who works with e-waste and that I want to dig through their stuff and see if I can find something nice to work with. I right away told them, that I’m well aware of the privacy protection laws they have to follow, and that I don’t want to pickup any storage devices like HDDs / tapes etc. At this point they were very cooperative.
I got there with a friend and they gave me some time to search through one of the trucks. I didn’t have more than about 30 minutes though, as the guy working at the storage itself, didn’t really understand why I was digging through that e-waste anyway.
So, I had to hurry and dug through all that pallets at a fast pace, climbing on top of them, while they were inside that truck. It really hurts your back, as there is no ergonomic way to lift a carelessly dropped 50 pound TV out of a pallet while standing on top of a 1 inch wide wooden frame.
But in my opinion the loot was worth it (and if it’s just to prove what great stuff gets thrown away) especially the Compaq CRT, which was on the bottom of the last pallet, hidden under some laser printers. After the digging, I had to pay 20$ into their kitty btw. …so bring some cash with you.
I think it hugely depends on the people working at the recycling company if they let you dig through their stuff. The one I called, was very cooperative, probably aware of how much good stuff they throw away.
On another occasion, I pulled a perfectly working commodore MPS-803 dot matrix printer IN BOX (!!!) out of a pallet at another recycling facility - but as I didn’t ask, this was technically theft. One guy saw me though and didn’t say anything. There was also a pristine looking graphite colored PowerMac G4 in there - I didn’t dare to pull that one out though… R.I.P.
Well sorry for channeling some negative feelings into my response. There is definitely tons of great stuff going through these facilities, but in my opinion the only effective solution would be to force (by law) all electronic recycling facilities to have every working piece of hardware for sale and handled with care.