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

The Story of Stuff Project has released The Story of Electronics, an 8-minute animated movie. 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.

According to Ted Smith, Chair of ETBC

Anyone who’s had a cell phone fritz out after six months already knows all about planned obsolescence. 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 has been 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.”

Annie Leonard, the Director of The Story of Stuff Project explains:

If we can figure out how to make an iPhone remember where you parked your car 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.

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