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WI Doing a Good Job of Properly Recycling E-Waste

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.
January 7, 2013

MADISON, Wis. - The phrase "Out with the old, in with the new" takes on new meaning when the topic is electronic gear, particularly when so many electronic devices are given as holiday gifts every year. Getting rid of the old requires responsible recycling so toxic materials in them are properly disposed of.

Mike Enberg with the watchdog group Basel Action Network (BAN) says e-waste 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, e-waste is not safely disposed of and is shipped overseas to become another nation's problem.

City of Madison recycling director George Dreckmann says Wisconsinites are good citizens when it comes to e-waste.

"In Wisconsin, with our now e-waste law, we're doing a pretty good job of keeping it out of the landfill - it has materials in it like lead and other toxic metals. Better yet, e-waste contains resources we can re-use."

Dreckmann says in Wisconsin, a number of municipal, charitable and business organizations have well-established practices to properly dispose of used TVs, cell phones, computers and other electronic devices. Citizens can drop their e-waste off at such sites and be assured it's being properly disposed of.

In addition to environmental concerns, another aspect of improperly dumping laptops and cell phones into the garbage stream is the data issue, according to Gregg Bjork with Materials Processing Corporation.

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

Free "e-Stewards" drop-off sites are listed at e-Stewards.org. More information on BAN is online at ban.org.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI