'The Story of Stuff' Takes on E-Waste and Toxic Gadgets

'The Story of Stuff' Takes on E-Waste and Toxic Gadgets

Annie Leonard's "Story of Stuff" project hit big with an eponymous viral video launched in 2007 that took on our entire consumer economy. Since then, she's gone on to look at the environmental impacts of bottled water, cosmetics and cap and trade.

Her latest project, developed in partnership with the Electronics TakeBack Coalition looks at the extended lifecycle of our billions of gadgets, and suggests developing a "green Moore's Law" for electronics.

It's "The Story of Electronics:"

The video covers the basics of the e-waste problem -- nothing new to readers of this site, of course -- from gadgets designed for obsolescence, to toxic inputs and toxic outputs, to the harsh reality of e-waste recycling in the developing world.

The video calls for reimagining how electronics are designed and disposed of, and while it's partly tongue-in-cheek, with a call for sending e-waste to IT company CEOs, Leonard also makes the point that electronics are not that technologically savvy in their design.

Instead, it's the profit motive that has led to cheap, hard-to-repair and hard-to-upgrade gadgets, Leonard argues. And the solution is to make producer responsibility the law of the land. By requiring electronics manufacturers to accept broken or unwanted electronics -- and handle all the costs of recycling and disposing of them -- the thinking goes that they will then be incentivized to build longer-lasting, more easily repaired and more easily upgradeable devices.

In typical "Story of Stuff" fashion, Leonard makes a quick and clear point about a big problem, and offers some tips on what you can do to get involved. But this really is a big problem, and one that we're only seeing slow progress on. Even though the biggest electronics companies -- HP, Apple, Dell, and Microsoft, among others -- are making headway, the problem will also require a political solution, and that has long been the biggest hurdle to overcome.

What do you think of the video above -- will it make a difference in the e-waste problem? Let us know in the comments below.