E-waste in Colorado

Prior blogs have looked at how planned obsolescence and consumer e-waste is being reported on a more national and global level. However, many times solutions to environmental problems have to start small and work their way up (SIMBY: Start In My Backyard) in order to make an impact. Knowing this, it is important to look at how planned obsolescence leading to toxic waste is being reported on a smaller level in Colorado and even in a green place like Boulder. Because local media coverage reaches fewer people than that of national, issues at a local level are more easily observed, and local issues are more personal, which allows for media to more easily tap into the emotions of its readers.

One key aspect of local media is its ability to truly hit home with consumers by reporting on environmental issues that directly affect them. A national article that simply discusses the issue as a whole and shows statistics that readers may not understand is unable to get on the same emotional level with the consumers.

The Denver Post article Government Auctions in Colorado Feed Global Trade in Toxic E-waste demonstrates the ability of local media to cover a topic like e-waste in a more informative way rather than simply pointing fingers or using scare tactics. This article points out and explains the issue of e-waste as well as what people are currently doing in Colorado to help with the issue. The report is a way to inform readers that it is an issue that directly affects them and that others are taking small steps to prevent it. The article shows individuals and small local businesses that if your neighbor can help than you can as well and demonstrates the ways in which one can help lessen the amount of e-waste.

This article directly addresses the idea and practices that local citizens and companies are taking that is either unknowingly adding to e-waste or attempting to fix this environmental issue in regards to electronics and how they are disposing of them. The most important part about this section is its ability to inform the public through interviews, information about fellow Coloradoans, and questions that individuals can ask when it comes to disposing of their electronics.

Local media is able to conduct more personal interviews and studies, on e-waste and Denver Post found that “… not only were environmental officials unaware of the practices, the issue is so complex that regulators had trouble sorting out what’s legal and what’s not. In the end, though, regulators said that backyard recycling was “absolutely illegal.” If officials are unclear about the law then one must ask who is clear on the law and further what is the duty of a citizen to uphold that law?

We see scare tactic many times in the media, and although this article contains some, the appeal to fear is much more subtle and personal than portrayed in many other articles.  It talks about State Guidelines for the toxicity of e-waste and says that it can cause, “long-term consequences to the human nervous system.” Looking at state guidelines is very important to local readers because research shows that people are more likely to trust their local/state government than the officials in Washington, and therefore will trust these guidelines more.

E-waste is not something that many citizens know or think about, and this article shows that it is the duty of local media to inform citizens on issues that directly affect them as a nation and at the state level as well.

After seeing the informative approach to reporting e-waste conducted by The Denver Post, it is interesting to now analyze how the media in Boulder, a town that is considered very green and not afraid to show it, reports e-waste. A reflection of Boulder’s strong environmental views is prevalent through the muckraking journalism seen in the Daily Camera article E-waste Investigation, Part 1: Coloradans’ ‘recycled’ computer can end up in the third-world, local landfills.

At first glance this article is very different from that of The Denver Post article with its strong visual imagery of e-waste in other countries and local citizens disposing of their electronics. These seemingly melodramatic visuals appeal to readers’ emotions because they allow them to picture themselves as a direct cause to such an environmental killer.

The Daily Camera article also visually represents the states and their policy on recycling of electronics through an interactive map, whereas The Denver Post article simply states that 13 states have any kind of ban on sending household e-waste to landfills. By using a visual the reader is likely to be more shocked by the high number of states that do not have a ban on dumping harmful electronics and further the reader will most likely care and want to take action more.

It reminds readers that they may not see electronic waste everyday but that it is out there and a major problem for many in the world. The journalist even furthers the emotional impact of the visual imagery by describing common images associated with e-waste such as, “Burning piles of plastic, children blackened by poisonous dirt.” The average consumer may not be familiar with these kinds of images showing that the author is only further persuading the reader to associate e-waste with a visual representation that to many is detrimental.

Even though this report is on the same issue as that reported in The Denver Post, it seems that the journalist incorporates more personal opinion throughout the article through her rhetoric. In direct comparison to how The Denver Post article described how state laws address e-waste are confusing by using examples and interviews, the Daily Camera article says, “state laws and regulations are confusing at best and sometimes seem to do the opposite of what was intended.” The article bashes the state and the role that it has played rather than showing how the laws are confusing.

The article further taps into the emotions of its readers by reassuring them that they are good citizens that recycle more than many other states. It then goes on to calling Colorado citizens’ efforts a “struggle” but that they are not alone. Further explaining that other organizations are also struggling, reassuring them that there are others that are trying to help, allowing the reader to be uplifted for a moment and feel good about their efforts.

The journalist ends the article discussing the uncertain destination of the electronics that are recycled, ending the Boulder reader on an uncertain note as well and most likely influencing them to care more about the topic and become more involved with the issue of e-waste. If promoting such involvement is the goal, then the journalist’s apparent agenda of causing promoting citizens to take action is fulfilled. Through strong visual imagery, rhetoric, and blending of opinion and fact, this article is able to tap in to the Boulder reader’s emotions in order to shape agenda in regards to e-waste.

Whether the purpose of an article is to promote a change or inform the citizens, local newspapers are able to affect readers on a much more personal and emotional level. By knowing that the issue is something that directly impacts their lifestyles and their health due to the effects of e-waste on a local level, consumers are more likely to be more deeply affected and concerned.



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