Computers, televisions and other electronic equipment are one of the fastest growing portions of our waste stream. As new electronic equipment becomes faster, cheaper and more efficient, more and more of these devices, especially computers, will find their way from the desktop to the bottom of the closet. US EPA estimates that 163,420 computers and televisions become obsolete in the US every day.
Computers and televisions are only one component of the consumer electronics waste stream that also includes VCRs, radios, cell phones, and small appliances. Careful disposal of these items is important because some electronics contain hazardous components. Computer monitors and televisions can contain leaded glass. Materials such as beryllium, mercury, cadmium, nickel, zinc, silver and gold can be found in printed circuit boards. Cadmium can also be found in batteries and mercury can be present in relays and switches. Because of the presence of these materials, it is important that we are careful how we dispose of these items.
Recycling E-Waste from the Home
In the near future, Connecticut residents will have access to convenient and free opportunities for recycling their covered electronic devices (CEDs) due to a new law signed in July of 2007. CEDs regulated under the new law are computers, computer monitors and televisions generated from households. The Department of Environmental Protection (Department) is currently developing regulations which may expand that list to include similar items such as printers.
On and after July 1, 2009, approved recyclers will be able to submit bills to manufacturers for the transportation and recycling of their products. Municipalities will have collection programs in place by that time and residents may then recycle their CEDs at no cost. On January 1, 2011, there will be a disposal ban for all covered devices, meaning no CEDs may be placed in the trash.
In the meantime, many towns in Connecticut participate in regional, one-day collections for these devices. Collections are sponsored by regional trash authorities, regional planning agencies and municipalities and generally take place in the spring and fall. These trash authorities do these collections voluntarily and at their expense. To find out when the next collection will be held that you may be eligible to participate in, contact your local Department of Public Works. You may also want to visit the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (the state's largest trash authority) website at: www.crra.org This website will have a listing of any electronics collections that they are sponsoring for member towns. A number of towns offer year-round collection for their own residents at their local transfer station. A small fee may be charged to cover costs of contracting with a computer recycler to pick up and recycle the material. These collection sites are open to town residents only.
Many computer manufacturers have implemented programs to recycle their products through mail back programs. Check the manufacturerís website for information on any available take-back programs. In addition, Staples Inc. recently initiated a program to accept old computers and monitors from customers for a nominal fee.
Recycling E-Waste from Businesses
E-wastes from non-residential sources (commercial, governmental, retail, etc.) are regulated under current federal and state hazardous waste laws and must be managed as either a hazardous waste or a universal waste. Generators of used electronic waste must manage these wastes in accordance with the Universal Waste Regulations (RCSA Section 22a-449(c)-113). The law requiring manufacturers to finance the transportation and recycling of CEDs does not cover businesses. Businesses must make their own arrangements for the proper management of these items.
Options for Reuse
If you have a computer that is still in good working order, you may be able to donate it to a school, or to an organization that distributes computers to schools. Some organizations provide technology not only to schools, but will also provide equipment to non-profits and/or public agencies that provide services to the needy, the unemployed or the disabled.
Each organization that promotes electronics reuse has very specific requirements regarding the equipment that they accept, so call first to find out if your used equipment is a good fit with that organizationís needs. If your computer is an older model that may not meet the needs of todayís school system, but still works well, you may want to consider donating it to a local nursery school where speed and issues such as internet access are not an important consideration.
You may also want to contact other local charitable organizations such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
Certain components of old cellular phones such as printed wiring boards, batteries and liquid crystal displays can pose a threat to the environment if improperly disposed of. If your cellular phone is in working condition, you may want to donate it to a growing number of programs that provide free phones to the elderly or potential victims of domestic violence. Call your town hall to find out if your town either sponsors such a program or is aware of a non-profit in your area that does so. When purchasing a new phone ask your cellular service provider if they will take your old phone for recycling. Cell phones and used cell phone batteries can be recycled through the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporationís recycling program. Participating retail outlets include Walmart, Radio Shack, Circuit City and Home Depot.
Source: State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection
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