Story of Stuff tackles toxic wastes from modern electronics

Economics and environmental science teachers will want to view this and use it —  it may be useful for world geography and world history, too:

Annie Leonard’s group tackles a huge, nasty problem, in an entertaining and informative style.  At her website, The Story of Stuff, there is a lot more information, a more detailed presentation (you could stream it if you have a decent internet connection in your classroom), and ideas for classes.

For AP courses, be sure to look for point-of-view issues; for history, look to the drawbacks of technology; for economics and world history, note the heavy emphasis on global markets and world trade.

It’s almost a rant — but dead right, I think.  We’re all culpable.  Spread the word, will you?

Press release on the film:


New Story of Stuff Project movie demands a ‘Green Moore’s Law’ in the Electronics Industry

The Story of Electronics:  Why “Designed for the Dump” is Toxic for People and the Planet

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – At midnight Pacific on November 9th The Story of Stuff Project will release The Story of Electronics, an 8-minute animated movie, at Hosted by Annie Leonard, the creator of the hit viral video The Story of Stuff, the film takes on the electronics industry’s “design for the dump” mentality and champions product takeback to spur companies to make less toxic, more easily recyclable and longer lasting products.

Co-produced with the Electronics TakeBack Coalition (ETBC)—a national coalition of over 30 environmental and public health organizations—and Free Range Studios, The Story of Electronics employs the trademark Story of Stuff-style to explain ‘planned obsolescence’—products designed to be replaced as quickly as possible—and its often hidden consequences for tech workers, the environment and us.

“Anyone who’s had a cell phone fritz out after six months already knows all about planned obsolescence,” said Ted Smith, Chair of ETBC. “Most of our electronics are laden with problematic substances like lead, mercury, PVC, and brominated flame retardants so when they break it‘s not just a bummer, it’s a global toxic issue. Instead of shipping our toxic trash across the world, product takeback ensures that electronics companies—not individual consumers, our governments, or worse, some poor guy in China—take responsibility for the stuff they put on the shelves.”

The film is being released in advance of the holiday season to get consumers thinking about the costs associated with that latest gadget and to show electronics companies that consumers want products that don’t trash people and the planet.  The film concludes with an opportunity for viewers to send a message to electronics companies demanding that they “make ‘em safe, make ‘em last, and take ‘em back.”

“If we can figure out how to make an iPhone remember where you parked your car,” said Annie Leonard, the Director of The Story of Stuff Project, “then we can figure out how to make electronics that aren’t filled with toxic chemicals and en route to the trash can just months after we buy them. Let’s apply some of that creativity and innovation to making products that are safe and long lasting!”

The Story of Electronics companion website,, will serve as an interactive launch pad for information and action steps for viewers. The site provides opportunities to learn more about the issue, find safer products and responsible recyclers, and get involved with the Electronics TakeBack Coalition. The site also houses downloadable  resources and information about the film, including an annotated script.

The Story of Electronics is the fourth in a series of new movies that The Story of Stuff Project is releasing this year with Free Range Studios ( and more than a dozen of the world’s leading sustainability organizations. Our previous short films—The Story of Cap & Trade (December 2009), The Story of Bottled Water (March 2010) and The Story of Cosmetics (July 2010)—have collectively been viewed more than 2.2 million times since their releases.

To schedule an interview with the following experts, contact:
Allison Cook, Story of Stuff Project, at (213) 507-4713 or

More, Resources:

6 Responses to Story of Stuff tackles toxic wastes from modern electronics

  1. […] “Story of Stuff tackles toxic wastes from modern electronics” and related posts ( […]


  2. […] Milliard Fillmore’s Bathtub had a cheerful post the other day about planned obsolescence, or as one lady describes it, Designed for the dump. It seems like most electronic gizmos these days are designed to be used until the next christma$ season, then disposed of. When they get tossed, they frequently go to a small town in China, where they become a toxic calamity. The auteur of these cartoon videos has a series available at Story of Stuff . It should be noted that if you go to the site, you will be confronted with the evil known as AUTO START PLAYER . You are warned. There is a certain irony in telling this tale, about the downside of technology, using an obnoxious feature of this wizardism. There are four videos available so far. They discuss cap and trade, cosmetics, electronics,and bottled water. The solutions presented are not always practical ( Best Buy is NOT taking back your old TV set). Some of the others…like skepticism  about drinking water claims… should be taken to heart. Even if you don’t change your lifestyle, the videos are fun to watch…on your new electronic device, with an expected use life of eighteen months. […]


  3. chamblee54 says:

    Auto start is a problem to me, yes. I suspect others feel the same. That is why I think a warning is appropriate.
    It is a medium/message issue. No matter how good your message, if you present it in the wrong medium you will lose effectiveness.
    There is an irony about this…a video about the hidden cost of life enhancing technology…that is presented using an obnoxious feature of this new technology.


  4. Ed Darrell says:

    Odd. I’m not getting the auto-start. . . oH– you mean at their site? Yeah, that’s true. Is that a problem?


  5. karl says:

    This is exactly one the main issues being looked at by the Stockholm Convention right now. Electronics are filled with toxic PBDE flame retardants, but once these products become obsolete, there’s no way to remove these chemicals before recycling or disposing of them. Luckily the Convention is considering doing the right thing, as I discussed in a recent blog post:


  6. chamblee54 says:

    WARNING: The story of electronics link has an auto start player.


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