The new law takes effect Saturday and bans computers, computer monitors, TVs, printers and computer peripheral including keyboards and mice, DVD players, videocassette recorders or fax machines from being incinerated or dumped in landfills.
Over the last two decades, a technological revolution has taken place. Electronic waste or E-waste is the inevitable by-product of this technological revolution. Once built to be repairable, consumer electronics are now designed to be replaced and discarded. Discarded electronic equipment is the fastest growing waste stream in the industrialized world rising by 3% to 5% per year, almost three times faster than the municipal waste stream. E-waste is also a growing toxic waste problem as it is one of the largest known sources of heavy metals and organic pollutants in the waste stream.
E-waste represents as much as 5% of waste disposal, more than beverage containers and disposable diapers. Nationally, an estimated 5 to 7 million tons of computers, televisions, stereos, cell phones, and other electronic gadgets become obsolete every year. A small fraction of this waste is being recycled. A sizable portion, remains in E-waste purgatory (unused but stockpiled in closets, garages, basements, and office storerooms). Businesses are waiting for a responsible opportunity to deal with this material and residents do not want to part with such an expensive “investment.”
Cleaned and sorted, the precious metals and other materials that make up E-waste have considerable value on the recycling market. The root problem is a lack of incentives for recycling, and the relatively high cost of dismantling, cleaning and sorting. Without effective phase-outs of hazardous chemicals and reuse and recycling systems, highly toxic chemicals found in electronics will continue to contaminate soil and groundwater as well as pollute the air, posing a threat to wildlife and people.
Marshall County residents may bring their obsolete electronics to the problem waste collection center for recycling. A nominal fee may apply; call 935-8618 for more information.