Story of Stuff tackles toxic wastes from modern electronics

November 10, 2010

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:

Abitibi restructuring – recycling hangs by a thread

July 10, 2009

Texas being Texas, recycling is not a big deal.  Oh, it makes a lot of money where it’s done, but there are cities where officials and citizens are happier making big, nasty landfills, rather than recycling to save money.

Across Texas one company has set up voluntary recycling deals with schools that both get some recycling done in cities, and provide money to the schools.  That company, Aabitibi, now AbitibiBowater, is in bankruptcy.  In Dallas, schools have been bouncing the recycling bins off of school grounds due to an ordinance that requires the bins to be hidden by fences (they are not that unattractive).

New guy on watch to finish the restructuring.  Good luck!

Tip of the old scrub brush to Waste News.

Recycling = Patriotism

June 14, 2009

Once upon a time it was a patriotic action to recycle things.

Boy Scouts distributed posters urging recycling during World War II - National Scouting Museum via National Archives

Boy Scouts distributed posters urging recycling during World War II - National Scouting Museum via National Archives

Once upon a time the nation’s future hinged on the ability of Americans to conserve resources and energy sources, especially gasoline.  So Americans, from the president to the lowliest boy, united to urge Americans to recycle rubber, metal, rags and paper.  It was the patriotic thing to do.

Make it do or do without - poster encouraging recycling and conservation for World War II

Make it do or do without - poster encouraging recycling and conservation for World War II

Did the recycling make significant contributions to the resources necessary to win the war?  A few argue that the value of the campaigns was uniting people toward a common goal.  But there were some clear connections between recycling of some products and the resources delivered to soldiers at the front that aided their fighting.

In the Pacific, Japan cut off U.S. access to rubber in Indochina.  Rubber from South America and Africa could be intercepted in shipping by German u-boats.  Metal refining from ores required more energy than refining from scrap.  Although the U.S. entered the war as the world’s leading petroleum exporting nation, gasoline and Diesel fuel supplies were precious for airplanes, tanks and other machines directly supporting the troops.

Recycling was patriotic in every possible meaning of the word.

Is it really a news flash?  Recycling is still the patriotic thing to do.

Waster paper made the boxes in which blood plasma was shipped to battlefield hospitals and medics

Waster paper made the boxes in which blood plasma was shipped to battlefield hospitals and medics

So the anti-green drive against recycling, demonstrated by Green Hell, tells us that the campaign against environmental concern, against environmental protection, against Al Gore, and against Rachel Carson, is not in our national interest.

What the hell?  They’re pro-garbage? Who in the world pays for this campaign Milloy runs, Vladimir Putin?  Vlad the Impaler?


Saturday jellyfish

April 19, 2008

Jellyfish croceted from newspaper plastic bags, by Barnowl

Pelagia plastica

In the meantime, I’ll post a photo of a jellyfish I crocheted from plastic yarn recently (I’ve felt that I have the brains of a jellyfish when I get home from work lately). It is loosely modeled on Pelagia spp. jellyfish, and I created the yarn from newspaper wrappers that friends at work saved for me. I used the hyperbolic crochet technique for the tentacles, and a simple cap pattern for the bell. All parts were crocheted using a size L hook.

In case you were wondering what to do to keep those plastic bags your newspaper comes in from ending up as junk/food that will kill a turtle in the Gulf of Mexico, I offer this jellyfish, from Guadelupe Storm-Petrel. (I think this may be a Texas blogger.)

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