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The Overconsumption of Computer and Electronics Equipment

Whenever we do not use our computer to the end of its life, or at least until it’s so slow that it no longer carries out basic functions, we are creating waste.

The recycling process begins with sorting the electronic waste, as we do in our Computer Recycling Canada warehouses. Whether it be electronic devices, computer hardware or old computers, everything is salvaged. The recycling of e-waste in Quebec becomes indispensable in preventing computer equipment from piling up in garbage dumps, or even worse, being burned in incinerators. The salvaging of these materials is necessary, as resources of the primary materials that go into making these products are limited. All this is possible, but it doesn’t happen on its own. As consumers, our role is to bring our old computers and electronics to drop-off points; businesses can easily call upon free collection services in Quebec to come pick up their material.

What can we do to reduce the pollution we create? Individually, we can reduce the quantity of electronics products we consume, or even better, buy used equipment that may not have met the needs of its previous owner, but can still be very useful to us, as well as being much less expensive.

We as human beings have caused a great degeneration in the state of our planet through our excessive consumption, and now we must become conscious of the immense repercussions of our actions. Thus we can avoid further degradation of the Earth, which is at greater and greater risk of natural disasters, if we don’t act quickly. While our society of overconsumption has allowed incredible economic evolution, it has also created serious social problems. All too often, human beings are carried away by superficial values such as richness and material possession, which have become ideals in our society. What is more, through its various conditioning and advertising tactics, the media continually feed the consumer frenzy, convincing us to purchase things that are unnecessary or even harmful to the environment.

The study of psychology allows us to distinguish between our essential needs and our superfluous ones, helping us to consume less, and consume better. Sociology focuses particularly on the way individuals are influenced by their culture and family. And finally, economic perspective highlights the great changes in technology and productivity that have led to this abusive and exaggerated consumption.

Since the start of industrialization, new phenomena have become omnipresent in our societies; economic activity, consumption and technology have become important parts of humanity. We have only known certain phenomena, such as advertising and mass consumption, since very recently. These very often dictate our lifestyle habits, leading us to overconsumption. The phenomenon of overconsumption is defined not by the quantity of purchases, but by the emotional imbalance associated to the act of buying. At present, excessive advertising succeeds in creating needs, rather than allowing us to meet them. These ads encourage us to over-consume, while in other countries below the poverty line, people are dying of hunger. In fact, the gap between rich and poor only continues to grow. Everyone seeks their own material gain, abundance, happiness of the mass majority, even if it is to the detriment of others; this is the result of capitalism. More and more, the consumer society we live in is exposing its absurdity and its scope. There is a constant stream of new fashions, encouraging us to consume more; there is always a new “must-have” product. It is a vicious circle. The more we have, the more we want. The more money we have, the more we spend. Our needs are limitless, but the economic means for fulfilling them are not.

At the beginning of the 2oth century, there was an economic rise following the First World War; consumption of goods and services rose dramatically. As a result, the population started consuming differently. It is interesting to note that urbanization was partly responsible for this shift towards overconsumption. In addition, the media have also played a very important part in the development of consumption, presenting a multitude of new electronic products of all kinds – today, most of us own a laptop and a cellphone. Their goal is not to help us consume better, but rather to make us consume more, through various forms of mental conditioning and illusions created with the aim of increasing their own profit. Society then becomes a key player in the development of overconsumption, as it enslaves people by persuading them that a multitude of consumer goods will make them happy. It convinces people through subtle deception that happiness is only found in the overconsumption of material things. The consumer society favours values such as material possession and wealth as its ideal.

Human activities produce a wide variety of waste, and the elimination of this waste is an important factor in the protection of the environment. The salvaging of electronics and computer hardware is necessary, as these products are very toxic and correspond to 75% of the toxic products consumed by human beings, even though they only represent 4% of the overall weight of our waste. Salvage and recovery of these products is possible, but it cannot be done without time, energy and solid efforts. The recycling process begins with sorting items into blue recycling bins for electronic items. There are multiple drop-off points all over Quebec, and for businesses we offer a free computer and electronics collection service, from Quebec City to Montreal.

Overconsumption can easily be compared to alcohol abuse. Here too, self-esteem comes into play, because many people may drink to boost their morale, which is ineffective because alcohol only helps us forget our problems. Furthermore, people often succumb to alcohol due to peer pressure and a desire to fit in. Alcohol abuse, however, is not the result of media conditioning and does not cause environmental imbalance.

In order to fully understand the phenomenon of overconsumption, we can study it from three different perspectives: psychology, sociology, and economics. First of all, psychology allows us to decipher between basic needs and superfluous ones, helping the consumer avoid falling into the deceptive traps of the media. Making us feel valued as customers is one of the tricks the media use to convince us to buy a product – advertising often makes us think that buying this product will make us the envy of everyone around us; making us think that we’ll have better self-esteem when we buy any given product may be totally false. On top of it, people are often led to believe that if their personal belongings are bigger and better than their neighbours’, they will have a better self-image, but this too is entirely false, because it is not through material things that we gain self-esteem. Also, people are all too often led to conform to others, believing that their actions are good, while really they are motivated by passivity or by fear of being different. Thus, social conforms trap people into buying the same products as their friends and family, without even considering the real reasons for their purchases or the subsequent consequences to the environment.

Next, the sociological point of view highlights society’s influence on individual consumption, and the social challenges of lowering abusive and superficial consumption. In order for people’s consumption habits to change, they must first be made aware of the implications of those habits. Also, the culture of each country plays a major part in determining the values of its society. Consequently, it is important to know ourselves well, in order to rediscover our most essential values.

Finally, economic perspective puts the focus on the huge increase in production that has led to this excessive consumption. The quest for profit has serious repercussions on people’s consumption, because its goal is to be the best, and thus companies will employ all the possible tools, traps and illusions to help them sell, with little or no consideration for consumers. In addition, supply and demand are very interesting concepts, because they are interrelated. The two mutually and positively influence one another – the greater the supply, the greater the demand, and vice-versa. The more we consume, the more new products are offered, and the more products that are offered, the more we consume. In short, we enter a cycle that causes us to always consume more and more.

First of all, learning through observation is a process through which an individual acquires new behaviour by observing another individual. Furthermore, beliefs are all thought patterns that influence our behaviour. We should all shift certain beliefs about the necessity of buying a multitude of electronic equipment, which makes our behaviour abusive and hazardous to the environment.

People of post-industrial societies generally do not put enough emphasis on production, they opt more towards consumption. Instead of focusing on what we need, businesses ask themselves what we could consume. Individuals are so alienated by the consumer society that they can no longer make wise consumer choices, due to their own psychological limitations.

We should, then, be very careful of what we consume, because the goal of businesses is not to help us, but rather to sell us goods and services.

Capitalism seeks profit above all, which implies selling many goods and establishing competition between companies. This competition then drives a drop in prices, which encourages a rise in sales. It’s not because we see well-priced products that we should buy them – these low prices are often due to the fact that the business does not pay an adequate salary to its employees, and pays little or no attention to the environment.

In conclusion, overconsumption generates an imbalance in human beings as well as on the planet itself, so it becomes very important to know the repercussions of our actions on ourselves, on others, and on the environment, and be vigilant not to fall into the many traps set by the media.


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