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The Burden of Ewaste

What is ewaste and why is it important to ecycle?

According to the EPA, more than 4.6 million tons of electronic waste ended up in landfills in 2000. Since that time, 25 states have passed legislation mandating statewide e-waste recycling and several more states have introduced legislation. All laws except California and Utah use the Producer Responsibility approach, where the manufacturers must pay for recycling. Even with state regulations and educational programs such as reduce, reuse, and recycle, the EPA estimates that only 15-20% of e-waste is recycled and the rest of these electronics go directly into landfills and incinerators.

What comes to mind when talking about e-waste is the personal computer; however, because of this misunderstanding, individuals unknowingly throw dangerous items in the trash. To clear up any confusion, e-waste is any electronic product such as:

  • Computers, Monitors, Laptops, & Tablets
  • Printers, Copiers, Fax & All-in-one Machines
  • Mp3 Players & Cell Phones
  • TVs, DVD Players, DVRs, & VCRs,
  • Stereo Equipment & Video Game Consoles

When these items are incinerated or disposed of in other unsafe ways, the hazardous materials they contain can lead to the contamination of our air, soil, and drinking water, which affects humans and animals alike. Some of these materials include

  • Lead
    • Causes brain and nervous system damage, as well as reproduction and circulatory problems.
  • Cadmium
    • Damages the brain and nervous system.  Amounts found in the human body increases as we age due to constant exposure.
  • Barium
    • Leads to brain swelling, muscle weakness, damage to the heart, liver, and spleen.
  • Chromium
    • Produces toxic effects within the cells and can irritate the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes. Chronic exposure can cause possible DNA damage.
  • Mercury
    • Accumulates in the body, causing brain and liver damage if ingested or inhaled.
  • Selenium
    • Causes hair loss, nail brittleness, and nerve-related neurological abnormalities.

When in the market for electronic items, be sure to give some thought to the following options. First, if you are disposing of an old item, locate a recycling center that will take your old electronics. Also, consider having your computer services technician upgrade your computer. Memory, hard drives, and operating systems are all components that can be upgraded by a professional. Another option is donation. Many non-profit organizations rely on outdated computers. In fact, many schools need old computers to teach students how to type, navigate, etc. In addition to these two great options, some PC manufacturers will accept old computers in order to reuse as much of the old system as possible in order to keep manufacturing costs down and reduce the amount of waste created.

Be aware that there are opportunities for recycling in and around your community.

  • Newton will pick up in front of your house for a fee.
    • Visit: http://www.newtonma.gov
  • Wellesley has a transfer station for town residents.
    • Visit: http://www.ci.wellesley.ma.us
  • Needham offers free collection of hazardous materials on a scheduled date. This year's date is October 20, 2012.
    • Visit: http://www.needhamma.gov
  • Brookline offers curbside ewaste collection, but you must call a week in advance.
    • Visit: http://www.brooklinema.gov
  • Weston has an ewaste collection date, and although this year's date of April 21st has already passed, keep this website address for future collection dates.
    • Visit: http://weston.govoffice.com

In addition, Staples often promotes the recycling of a printer or shredder and in return will offer $50 off a new one. There are plenty of opportunities for recycling your unwanted, unneeded, or outdated equipment.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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