We get a lot of calls asking when our next E-waste recycling event is taking place. My answer is that EVERY day we’re open is an E-waste event at the Landfill & Recycling Center
.* Simply tell the attendant at the scale house that you have E-waste to recycle and you will be directed where to take it. Most products are accepted free of charge. The exceptions are: CRTs, LCDs, laptops and other screens that are 36 inches or greater on the diagonal and business equipment, for which a minimal handling fee is charged.
E-waste is electronic waste that contains hazardous material that may be released when crushed or compacted and, for that reason, is banned from landfills in California
. Sixteen other states have similar bans.
Examples of E-waste include cell phones and other phones, computers and monitors, printers and copiers, radios, televisions, iPods, answering machines, pagers, PDAs, stereos, calculators, CD players, radios, VCRs and DVD players. Electrical devices such as coffee pots, irons, vacuum cleaners, blenders, heaters, cock pots, non-digital cameras and clocks,microwaves, power tools, lamps, toys and hair driers do not fall under the category of E-waste and should be placed in your household trash. Microwaves are considered an appliance and are charged the same fee as washers, dryers and stoves because they all require special handling.
Here are a couple of facts that opened my eyes to the enormity of electronic waste in this country:
- The federal government alone disposes of 10,000 computers each week, according to a Feb, 2012 report by the Government Accountability Office. Lead and mercury are two toxic materials commonly found in computers.
- The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) estimates that in 2010 about 18 million cell phones were purchased in California, while only 3.7 million (21%) were recycled. Most cell phones contain such hazardous materials as lead and cadmium. (For more information about toxins in electronics go to: earth911.com)
The California Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003 requires retailers to collect a fee at the time of purchase for electronic devices the DTSC has determined to be hazardous. For example, DVD players were added after DTSC test results indicated that they contain significant amounts of lead, copper, nickel and/or antimony. The fees go into a fund used to reimburse authorized electronic waste recyclers and collectors.
Under pressure from consumers and groups like the California Product Stewardship Council, some manufacturers and retailers are beginning to offer take back programs that allow customers to mail or drop off unwanted electronics. Best Buy has been a leader in this area, while other companies have more limited programs. At: www.epeat.net
you can find a list of electronics manufacturers that have been rated according to energy use, production, design and recycling. Bear in mind that some recycling programs require consumers to package and ship the materials to the company at the consumers’ expense. ( Cell phones are also collected by non-profits as fund-raising projects. Locally, there are collection boxes at the Mariposa Library and the American Legion hall.)
Another thing to consider is what happens to the E-waste after it is collected by the recycler. Is it going to a processing plant in the U.S.
where valuable components such as gold and copper are removed and the remainder melted, shredded or otherwise refined into a marketable product? Or is it being exported to a developing country that does not have the financial resources or governmental controls to provide adequate protection against exposure to harmful toxins?
According to a report by the Electronics Takeback Coalition (ETC) (electronicstakeback.com
), as much as 50 to 80 percent of the E-waste brought in for recycling in the U.S.
is exported out of the country. You’ve no doubt seen pictures and videos of people tearing apart computer monitors with their bare hands while ominous plumes of black smoke rise from mountains of burning E-waste behind them. For more information go to: pbs.org/frontlineworld
The ETC is compiling a list of electronics recyclers that do not ship E-waste outside the U.S.
, a group they call “E-Stewards.” ECS Refining, the recycler who currently collects the E-waste from Mariposa County Solid Waste, is on the list.
As with all solid waste products, it is important to remember the 3Rs of waste management—reduce, reuse, recycle. Some ways to reduce our electronics waste are: buying products that can be easily updated, that have the capability to add more memory, and that have recycled content. Reuse, the next best option, involves repairing old equipment rather than discarding it, or donating it to a school or organization. In one innovative program, called Students Recycling Used Technology (StRUT) svstrut.org
, students learn technological skills by refurbishing donated computers, which are then given to local schools.
To learn more about purchasing “greener” electronics or E-waste recycling, go to:
; or erecycle.org
*The E-waste collections held at the County Fairgrounds and other locations in town are not sponsored by Mariposa County Public Works.