What to Do about Our Growing eWaste?
Electronic devices contain hazardous materials that need proper recycling
In 2009, 438 million electronic products were sold, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s the last year data are available, but with new products, sales are stronger than ever.
So what to do with our old electronics?
All electronic devices contain hazardous materials that need proper recycling. They “contain a wide variety of hazardous materials such as lead, nickel, cadmium and mercury and pose risks to human health and the environment,” says John Nicklin of WasteStrategies. “If eWaste is dumped in landfills these materials eventually leach into the environment and wind up in the local ecosystem.”
Old electronics are accepted free at local recycling centers in Millersville, Glen Burnie and Deale. That easy availability keeps much eWaste off the roadsides, according to Richard Bowen, Anne Arundel County Solid Waste Recycling Manager. But not all. Country roads are still used as scoff-law dumpsites for eWaste and all kinds of other trash.
In Calvert County, electronics recycling is offered is offered daily free of charge at six of Calvert’s seven centers: The Appeal Landfill as well as the convenience centers on Ball Road, at Barstow, Huntingtown, Mt. Hope and Plumb Point. Not, however, at the Lusby Center.
Saturday, February 18, Calvert County holds an eWaste fair at the Appeal Landfill in Lusby and at Huntingtown High School (8am to 4pm).
Recycled eWaste follows a responsible path.
First, both Anne Arundel and Calvert shred all hard drives to prevent identity theft. Then, Creative Recycling Systems — the contractor for both counties — ships remaining waste to a processing center in North Carolina where it is recycled. The company boasts “a zero waste goal.” The company is capable of processing eWaste so efficiently, it says, that less than one percent — none of it toxic — “actually enters the waste stream.”
Some big retailers also accept eWaste. Best Buy, for example, recycles most eWaste, wherever purchased, free of charge with a rule of three items per customer per day. The exception is hard drive wiping, for which a small fee is charged. Best Buy uses these electronics for parts to repair consumer electronics and responsibly recycles the rest.