Recycling electronics a sound idea for environment

Letter to the Editor

Posted: Friday, April 06, 2007

In this age of consumerism, we take computers, DVD players and televisions for granted, but unless we are careful, humanity will ultimately pay for all of our amazing modern marvels.

With computers being updated practically daily and the current transition to Hi-Definition television, the world is beginning a new era of entertainment with little regard for the earth.

It seems current industry has decided it is the most profitable to make cheap products that are programed to fall apart or become outdated, requiring the consumer to purchase new ones. We are excited to be getting the “latest and greatest,” but what is happening to all the discarded pieces of equipment that pile up from our frenzy for more?

The answer is sadly all too often the landfill. This is a major environmental/water-quality issue, as well as a huge waste of valuable resources. The alternative? Recycling. If properly done, the equipment is dismantled and sorted, and the valuable materials are recovered and reused.

Sadly the recycling or take-back programs often involve shipping the trash to Third World countries, where it is dismantled and sorted by hand, often by children, in open dump sites where the chemicals leach out and are not only hazardous to workers, but also destroy the water table, creating dead zones where the ground is made so acidic and toxic nothing grows.

The water is — to be honest — not really water anymore, but a hazardous, concoction of chemicals and heavy metals.

This is a major issue and the electronics industry needs to clean up its act and make products that are more environmentally friendly by removing toxics, making quality products that last, making things more easily upgradable and creating responsible take-back programs.

This is something we can all hope for, and there is current legislation in Congress, H.R. 1165 “to establish a grant and fee program through the EPA to encourage and promote the recycling of used computers ... .”

However, greed is a factor and big corporations will most likely go down kicking and screaming.

What you can do now is think twice before purchasing new equipment. If you do, then donate your old stuff, and if it is completely outdated and unusable, take it to a responsible recycling center where it will be put back in the manufacturing loop. You can go to the second annual Computer/Electronics Recycling Event on April 28 in Homer to discard your old electronics. Like last year, some fees will apply, but it is a small price to pay to keep this toxic waste out of our landfill.

Tehben Dean


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