"High Tech Trash": A Book Review

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Elizabeth Grossman's HIGH TECH TRASH: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health is just out from Island Press. The IP website notes: "High Tech Trash is a wake-up call to the importance of the e-waste issue and the health hazards involved", a fair characterization of the book's thesis. We received a publisher's review copy of High Tech Trash, and after a few chapters realized that the title is misleading. Only a few chapters focus on product end-of-life issues. The book is really much broader than the title implies, giving an overview to the full range of product life cycle issues for consumer electronics, with a focus on the human toxicity issues stemming from byproducts, emissions, leachate, and solid waste. It would serve as a good introductory overview for citizen activists, reporters, or for a new employee at a regulatory agency. Although it contains a bibliography, this is not a scientific or engineering reference work. There is not a single chart, table, or illustration, for example. The book also is light on new solutions, leaving the reader without examples of design principles, products, or business models that take us in a better direction. The most glaring omission: Climate Change is not mentioned. For a life cycle overview to gloss over energy efficiency in the product "use phase" is a serious flaw.