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Out with the Old: Recycling TVs, Laptops, Cell Phones...

PHOTO: The Basel Action Network estimates 75 percent of the electronic waste that arrives in Lagos, Nigeria, is not reusable. BAN says too often, as in this photo, it ends up being dumped. Courtesy BAN.
PHOTO: The Basel Action Network estimates 75 percent of the electronic waste that arrives in Lagos, Nigeria, is not reusable. BAN says too often, as in this photo, it ends up being dumped. Courtesy BAN.
December 27, 2012

EAGAN, Minn. - “Out with the old, in with the new”' takes on a whole new meaning when the topic is electronic gear.

Laptops, televisions and cell phones should never be dumped in the garbage, says Gregg Bjork, senior vice president of Minnesota-based Materials Processing Corp., because toxins can leach into the soil and water. Another major concern, he says, is data.

"Everything from a laptop to a copy machine is storing confidential information on it, and anybody who gets their hands on it might be able to extract everything from credit-card numbers to any kinds of confidential documentation that might be on that device."

MPC is among recyclers in about 30 states so far that are "e-Steward" certified, meaning people can be sure their cast-off electronics are recycled safely.

The "e-Stewards" certification is a program of the toxic waste watchdog group Basel Action Network. BAN's enterprise director, Mike Enberg, who heads the "e-Stewards" program, says the oversight is necessary for what has become an international environmental nightmare.

“E-waste is the quickest-growing portion of the waste stream and has been for a number of years - 142,000 computers and over 416,000 mobile devices are trashed or recycled every day.”

Too often, Enberg says, electronics aren't broken down by recyclers for their usable components, and hazardous waste isn't safely disposed of. It may even be shipped overseas to become another country's problem.

Find free “e-Stewards” drop-off sites at e-Stewards.org. More information on BAN is online at ban.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN