eCycle: Green Tips

You bought a new flat screen TV, and while you were at it, you bought a flat screen monitor as well. Your old clunky TV was easily re-routed to a new home, thanks to Freecycle (read more about how to use Freecycle) but the monitor has seen better days and no one seems to want to adopt your orphan.

So what do you do?

A) You throw it in the trash

B) You hide it in your spouse’s spare closet and hope he/she doesn’t find it until the next round of spring cleaning

C) You brush up on how to properly dispose of e-waste in a responsible manner

If you answered A or B, please review all past posts in The Budget Ecoist’s archive.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

If you answered C, well, you’re OUR hero!  All good Ecoists, come to the head of the class, it’s time to have a little discussion on eWaste!

What it is: Electronic waste, or “e-waste” is a waste type consisting of broken or unwanted electrical or electronic appliance(s). According to the EPA, “In 2005, used or unwanted electronics amounted to approximately 1.9 to 2.2 million tons. Of that, about 1.5 to 1.9 million tons were primarily discarded in landfills, and only 345,000 to 379,000 tons were recycled.â€?

Why you should care: There are several reasons to care.  First, electronics can be a valuable source of secondary raw materials such as lead, mercury and cadmium (resources that can become carcinogens in our landfills if not disposed of properly). According to a March 2007 issue of MotherJones, electronic waste currently comprises 70% of toxic waste in our landfills.

Because of our increased demand for newer, cooler electronics – and businesses’ increased desire to convert current products to end of life, thereby increasing the desire for newer models – we’ve created an unsustainability when it comes to recycling eWaste.

While the U.S. has increased regulation of e-waste, this had the unfortunate and unforeseen effect of providing brokers with an incentive to export the e-waste to developing countries such as China, India and Kenya. Because the United States has not ratified the Basel Convention or the Basel Ban Amendment, and has no domestic laws forbidding the export of toxic waste, it is estimated that about 80% of the e-waste directed to recycling in the U.S. does not get recycled here at all but is instead sent overseas.

What you can do: Congress is considering a number of electronic waste bills including the National Computer Recycling Act introduced by Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA). This bill has continually stalled, however. Call your Congressman/woman in support of this bill!

If you currently need to dispose of eWaste, you can learn how to dispose of it properly at the EPA’s eCycling website or GreenPeace’s electronic waste campaign.