America Recycles Day: The Value Of Proper E-Waste Recycling


Curbside TV trash. Image credit:PhillyNewsBlog, Scene On The Road, T. Gralish.

This Sunday, November 15th, marks the 12th annual America Recycles Day, a nationally recognized day for Americans to recycle and purchase recycled products. While the global waste stream continues to grow, current trends indicate that electronic waste (e-waste) is the fastest growing commodity within the waste stream. In fact, volumes are growing at more than three times the rate of other wastes and have doubled in the last decade.A 2008 Consumer Reports study found that nine in 10 consumers own at least one computer and a there is a median of 3.5 TVs per household; the Consumer Electronics Association also found that Americans own nearly 24 electronics per household, each with an ever-shortening lifespan. Though nearly two million tons of e-waste is recycled each year, according to the EPA, the agency also estimates that about five million tons of e-waste, the vast majority of which consists of consumer electronics, lies dormant in garages and basements across the country. By recycling these old electronics products, useful materials - such as plastic and metals - can be collected and reused in the creation of other products.

Most electronic items contain certain substances that are required to operate properly, including lead, mercury, cadmium and brominated flame-retardants. As a result, disposal of electronics including these substances must be carefully handled. Motivating consumers to responsibly dispose of their unwanted electronics lies in the hands of many, including industry leaders, policymakers and electronics manufacturers, among others.

Some manufacturers are already taking responsibility for the end-of-life maintenance of their products, and have developed e-waste recycling programs for businesses and consumers to safely manage and dispose of their electronic waste right here in the U.S. To demonstrate this growing trend, Earth911 has provided a comprehensive list of manufacturer-sponsored programs.

In 2007, Waste Management (WM) announced the first nationwide electronics take-back program. Currently there are over 200 e-waste collection depots across the country, and WM is working to meet its goal of maintaining continuous drop-off locations in all 50 states. The company also recently announced in partnership with LG Electronics an expansion of this program to include the first recycling program for hotel operators to responsibly dispose of outdated television sets and computer monitors. In 2010 alone, it is anticipated that hundreds of hotels are expected to upgrade thousands of rooms with energy-efficient digital TVs, which will displace older analog picture tube TVs.

Another key to responsible e-recycling is ensuring that these electronic products are not illegally processed in outside of the U.S. In accordance with the Basel Treaty, Waste Management has a long-standing policy of not shipping restricted hazardous items to non-Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and EU countries. In September 2008, Waste Management reaffirmed this commitment by committing to adopt the Basel Action Network's (BAN) Electronics Recycler's Pledge of True Stewardship for the dismantling and recycling of electronics waste.

Basel Action Network, a watchdog group that focuses on global environmental injustice and economic inefficiency of toxic trade, established the e-Stewards Initiative http://www.e-stewards.org/esteward_solution.html to determine and certify North American recyclers that are the most responsible and effective in the industry. BAN encourages consumers to only recycle their electronics with those who have signed the pledge to ensure their personal electronics are being disposed of in a safe and appropriate manner. The Pledge applies to restricted materials such as circuit boards, cathode ray tube glass and other items that contain lead and hazardous materials.

Like other recyclers that have signed onto the BAN pledge, WM is also committed to the United States Environmental Protection Agency's R2 Standards for the management of electronic waste to ensure that the e-waste around the country is processed in a responsible manner that protects the environment and the people in our communities, as well as the individuals handling the waste.

With America Recycles Day upon us, there is an opportunity for all responsible parties - manufacturers, recyclers, policymakers and consumers alike - to recognize the need for proper electronics disposal, and the benefits of recycling these items that continue to become a growing part of the global waste stream

Additional posts on E-waste.
The Digital TV Switch Causes 70% Rise in e-Waste :
Recycling E-Waste In Confidence: A Reachable Goal :
Indiana Approves Major Statewide e-Waste Recycling Program
Tighter e-Waste Rules Could Recover Tons of Money :

Tags: Recycled Consumer Goods

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