Ranjana Mitra founded Share-IT, which keeps used computers out of the waste stream by refurbishing them and donating them to poor families. Launched in Toronto in 2004, Share-IT has so far given away more than 75 complete computer systems and kept 23,000 pounds of electronic waste out of landfills, where components can leach mercury, lead and other toxins into the environment. At the end of its lifespan, equipment returns to Share-IT for safe recycling or disposal. Mitra grew up in Calcutta, India, where she watched her grandmother collect scrap metal and other reusables.
What happens when we trash our computers?
Mitra: “They end up in landfills, often in developing countries, where pickers, mostly women and children, separate out recyclable materials. They use a hammer to break open monitors, immediately exposing themselves to lead and phosphorous dust, which are deadly and damage the neurological system and the reproductive system. This is what really scared me.”
How did you find a solution?
“I was doing public-policy research on electronic waste, and also mentoring new immigrants when I found that so many people don’t have access to a computer. That’s when I came up with the vision of keeping computers out of the waste stream by reusing the technology in the local community.”
What happens when you give a person a computer?
“You can raise economic well being, because people can be more productive, build skills, work on their resumes and find jobs. And kids can better do their homework. In the big picture, as individuals thrive, so does the community.”
More information: www.communityenvironment.org