Imagine this in the near future: while separating the bottles and cans from paper products in the recycling bin, we may also need to set aside some old flash drives. That, at least, is part of the goal put forth by memory manufacturer ATP, which sells what it calls "the world's first bio-recyclable USB drive."
The EarthDrive, which comes in capacities ranging from 1GB to 8GB, is a bit on the pricey side at $20 to $100, considering how cheap thumbdrives are getting. But it's all for a good cause: ATP, which has partnered with the American Forest Foundation for the project, says it will donate some of the revenues to the planting of trees. And because the EarthDrive is waterproof, shockproof, and dustproof, you can throw it in the same bag with your shovel.
In use, it performs absolutely fine. The USB connector slides in and out easily enough, transfer speeds are roughly on a par with the two generic keys lying around my desk.
It comes preloaded with a free copy of Carry It Easy encryption and syncing software. It's waterproof too. We just ran it under the kitchen tap, dried it, and plugged it into my laptop; it's working right now.
So what about the eco claims? The big boast is that it's made from bioplastic--effectively, corn--rather than conventional oil-based plastic. Bioplastic isn't green by default, as Ecogeek recently pointed out. Unless ATP can show the EarthDrive has a smaller carbon footprint as a result, it's no greener than normal plastic.
Then there's the claim that it's the "world's first recyclable USB drive." ATP's site has no mention of how you recycle the EarthDrive when it reaches the end of its life.
We also have a modest gripe at the EarthDrive's blue LED light. It probably only sucks a zillionth of a watt in power, but it's just symbolically wrong on a product like this.
As you can see, we're not hugely persuaded by the EarthDrive's green credentials. But at least its makers are trying, which is more than can be said for most USB key makers. The biggest name in the game, Sandisk, has an incredibly woolly environmental commitment.