Out with the Old: Recycling Cell Phones, Laptops, TVs...
YANKTON, S.D. - The phrase "Out with the old, in with the new" takes on a whole new meaning when the topic is electronic gear. A new national certification program ensures that recyclers properly dispose of laptops, televisions and cell phones. According to toxic waste watchdog Basel Action Network, the oversight is necessary for what it calls an international environmental nightmare.
Mike Enberg heads the e-Stewards program for BAN. He says it's a challenge for even the most responsible recyclers to keep up with the demand.
"142,000 computers and over 416,000 mobile devices are trashed or recycled every day."
The EPA says more than 80 percent of e-waste ends up in landfills or incinerators, where components made of toxic chemicals or metals can leach into groundwater or pollute the air. Some groups like senior centers and women's shelters in South Dakota accept used cell phones.
Enberg says that too often 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.
To prevent that, he says "e-Steward" certified recyclers use only approved waste processors and submit to regular audits.
"Their recycling vendor yearly is audited to a standard that would preclude exporting hazardous waste to developing countries, or using U.S. prison labor to de-manufacture electronic hazardous waste, or dumping hazardous waste in landfills."
Just this month, a jury convicted top executives of a Colorado company for illegally exporting hazardous e-waste.
Websites are E-Stewards.org and BAN.org.