The e-Stream: Saving Our Waters From Tech Waste
There's an app for everything now. Fishhound has its mobile app that helps you know where to go and what to throw. There are make-you-a-better-angler apps like the Strike King Fishing app or the Fish Notes app that Jimmy Houston endorses. Navionics has taken its popular lake maps and made them available on your phone. Then there are the make-you-a-better-steward apps like the Seafood Watch app that lets you make better decisions about what comes to your plate.
Why all the handheld technology to catch fish that don't know Bill Gates from Billy Graham?
Because all of us fishermen do know the difference – and we've been indoctrinated into the church of the holy mobile device. There are denominations. You've got the iPhone crowd, of which Shaw Grigsby is a member. And there are the Droid faithful: since Ish Monroe releasedhis app to the Droid Market first, one might assume he's among that congregation.
But no matter whether it's a Samsung or a Motorola, all of this e-everything is having a surprising effect on the waters we're fishing.
I'm not talking about concentrating fishing pressure. I'm talking about the phones themselves.
The phones and all of our other mounting digital devices – from tablets to televisions, laptops to light bulbs.
As for me, the term "e-waste" was on my radar but didn't mean much, and didn't have a real connection to our waters.
That is, until last week when I spoke for an assembly of seventh-graders. It was their school's annual day of service. I was there to talk about fish, fishing, and taking care of our waters through everyday living.
My friend Brenda Banks from the Cross Training Center was there to talk e-waste, and what she had to say surprised me. The video she showed shocked me – all of us, even the kids.
As more and more Americans use electronics, electronic waste also increases. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, Americans now own approximately 24 electronic products per household. We throw away 3 million tons in the U.S. – more than any other country.
Something like 80% hits our landfills, where chemicals like arsenic and a cocktail of heavy metals leach into our waters. Once again, our lifestyle runs downstream.
So, the stewardship-minded sportsman knows the drill, right? Recycle it!
Not so fast. What surprised me is that most e-waste boards a ship to countries where environmental regulations are lax or nonexistent. Whole communities are exposed to the most disturbing poisons you can imagine.
Inside your iPhone, or your TV, or your laptop are wires. If you burned off the plastic you could get to the metal. You've seen and smelled burning plastic, right? Imagine whole shanty-towns where the air is black with plastics smoke. Kids playing on mountains of black soot.
The fish in those waters? Not awesome – crazy levels of toxicity.
It's not our backyard, but it's our doing, and nobody can feel good about that.
So the fix is local recycling - for anything that has a cord - at places like Cross Training Center, where they're not only keeping our waters healthy here and abroad, but using it as a chance for job training to teach work and life skills to people who want to make the move off the streets and into a productive role in society.
Cell Phones for Soldiers seems to have a good thing going, too.
So when the time comes for your new phone, recycle the old one. It's an easy call, and it's one more way to live the Lifestyle of Stewardship, because our lifestyle runs downstream – and We Are Stewards.
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about the author
Recycled Fish is the national non-profit organization of "anglers living a Lifestyle of Stewardship both on and off the water, because Our Lifestyle Runs Downstream."