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Charbonneau: Environmental Panel Supports Ramping Up Efforts to Better Manage Electronic Waste in State

April 5, 2011
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04/06/11 A House panel on environmental affairs recently voted 10-0 in support of a proposal ramping up the state’s efforts to better manage electronic waste (e-waste). 

Senate Bill 433, authored by State Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso), expands the duties of local solid waste management districts to include the implementation of educational programs about reusing, recycling, collecting and properly disposing of e-waste. 

“As the largest and fastest growing manufacturing industry, electronics are causing a huge waste problem,” Charbonneau said. “Televisions, computers, cellular phones and appliances that no longer serve a purpose need to be properly discarded. Our state’s solid waste management districts could be ideal organizations for helping curb e-waste in our state.”

Charbonneau, a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Environmental Affairs, said it’s important to educate the public about e-waste because of the physical and environmental dangers associated with dismantling or discarding the unwanted items. Many electronic devices contain toxins that can contaminate the air, water and soil when taken apart. Chromium, which is also found in computers, can be absorbed through the skin.

He said exposure to these toxins that may occur through inhalation, ingestion or absorption can cause birth defects, cancer, neurological and respiratory disorders. 

Estimates from the United Nations Environment Program show 20 to 50 million tons of e-waste is generated each year worldwide. The National Safety Council projects that nearly 250 million computers will become obsolete in the next five years and mobile phones are discarded at a rate of 130 million per year. 

“Many televisions and computer monitors contain cathode ray tubes with four to eight pounds of lead,” Charbonneau said. “When these items are buried or openly discarded, dangerous metals can reach rivers, lakes and groundwater supplies. These toxins remain in the environment indefinitely because they cannot be naturally broken down.”  

Currently, soil and water conservation districts help Indiana residents conserve land, water, forests, wildlife and related natural resources. Each of Indiana’s 92 counties has a local soil and water conservation district, which are extensions of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation District (IASWCD). These groups host river cleanups, trash-collection drives and workshops. Visit www.iaswcd.org/ to learn more about the IASWCD and local soil and water conservation districts. 

Additional information about e-waste and how and where to dispose of electrical items can be found at www.in.gov/recycle

SB 433 can now move to the full House for consideration.

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