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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 31, 2012

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The phrase "Out with the old, in with the new" takes on a whole new meaning when the topic is electronic gear.

Gregg Bjork, senior vice president at Materials Processing Corporation, says laptops, televisions and cell phones should never be dumped in the garbage, because toxins can leach into the soil and water. He says another major concern is data on items like laptops where personal information is stored.

"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 the recyclers in about 30 states so far that are e-Steward certified, meaning people can be sure their cast-off electronics are recycled safely. There are two such recyclers in Florida.

The e-Stewards certification is a program of the Basel Action Network, a toxic waste watchdog group. BAN's Mike Enberg, e-Stewards enterprise director, 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."

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.

Websites are E-Stewards.org and BAN.org.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL