homes in Arkansas have at least one television and a computer, as well as several
other consumer electronics devices. Most Arkansas businesses and industries rely
on electronics in their work. From banking to the traffic signals on city streets,
electronic equipment makes our world comfortable and productive. But what happens
to all of these electronics when they break down or no longer serve the users’ needs?
They become part of the fastest growing component of our daily solid waste stream
– electronic waste, commonly referred to as e-waste.
Many electronics contain elements – lead, mercury, and cadmium for example –
that are safe when the items are used as directed, but can be hazardous if disposed
of in household trash and compacted at landfills. Televisions and CRT (cathode ray
tube) monitors contain an average of four pounds of lead and could contain double
that amount depending on size and make. Mercury from electronics has been cited
as a leading source of mercury in municipal waste. The largest source of cadmium
in municipal waste is rechargeable nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries, commonly found
in laptops, cell phones and cameras. In addition, brominated flame-retardants are
commonly added to plastics used in electronics. If improperly handled, these toxins
can be released into the environment, posing a threat to human health.
Realizing the potential effects on Arkansas’ environment and people, the state
Legislature gave ADEQ the authority to ban electronic waste from Arkansas’ municipal
solid waste landfills beginning in January, 2010. This ban has not been put into
place yet, so residents can dispose
of e-waste with other household items unless restricted by local landfills. Non-household
generators, such as businesses and government offices, may be subject to
hazardous waste rules. (Consumer
electronics are generally handled as universal wastes.) The Department of Environmental
Quality has worked and will continue to work to provide alternatives for everyone
in the state. As with other materials, the agency encourages you to explore the
three R’s – reduction, reuse and recycling – of e-waste.
Reduce – Smart purchasing and proper maintenance can extend the life of your equipment.
When possible, upgrade your equipment instead of purchasing a whole new unit.
Purchase a quality monitor that you can keep to use with the next computer you purchase.
Lease equipment so you can trade it in at the end of the lease or when you are ready for new technology.
Protect your equipment by using a surge protector and keeping equipment covered.
Reuse – Equipment that does not meet your current needs may be perfect for someone else.
Purchase used equipment if it is available and meets your needs.
Donate unwanted equipment to local charities or organizations to be used for teaching tools or activity centers for after school programs.
Contact your local school district or library to see if it can use some or all of your equipment.
Even equipment that is no longer working may be useful to others for parts or technical training.
Recycle – Most electronic equipment can be recycled, but not necessarily in your local area.
Contact your regional solid waste management district, local elected officials or sanitation department to see if your community has an electronics recycling center or is planning a one-day collection event.
Check the paperwork that came with the equipment or the manufacturer’s web site for recycling information and costs.
If the manufacturer of your equipment does not have a recycling program, check the Internet for other recycling options. Some manufacturers will accept competitor’s equipment in their recycling programs.
Spent rechargeable Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd) batteries can be recycled through many retail outlets. Find out where you can recycle them using the consumer information at www.rbrc.org.
If your unwanted electronics are extremely out-of-date or are not working, you
will probably need to look at recycling. Otherwise, the first choice for reuse should
be any local entities that would take them for reuse or resale. For instance, there
may be a used electronics store that would take them on consignment or actually
pay you for the items. Charitable thrift stores, including national programs such
as Salvation Army or Goodwill, may also take them off your hands. Check your local
telephone book for possibilities in your area.
On a national level, there are organizations that will provide a second life for specific electronic items or recycle them to benefit others. These include:
Cell Phones for Soldiers -
www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com - turns funds received from recycling unwanted cell phones into cost-free communication services for active duty military members and veterans. You can help by donating cell phones you no longer use, holding a cell phone collection drive or setting up a drop-off site.
Every day, across America and around the world, National Cristina Foundation is working to ensure that used computer technology resources that no longer meet an enterprise's or an individual's needs are given a second productive life as a tool for developing human potential. Go to the foundation’s Web site - www.cristina.org - to see if your computer meets their needs.
If you are an eBay user, check out eBay Giving Works -
www.ebaygivingworks.com/about.html. This program allows you to donate a percentage of the selling price of your item to a nonprofit of your choice. (If you are shopping on eBay, look for the blue-and-yellow ribbon which identifies listings that support nonprofits.)
Your old electronics can also be used to support programming that helps stop violence in the home through the
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence -
www.ncadv.org/takeaction/DonateaPhone.php. While focused on cell phones, this organization will also take other small electronics through their partner Cellular Recycler.
Earth 911 –
www.earth911.org – lists a variety of recycling options based on ZIP code. Type in your search parameters in the boxes at the top of the page and click on search. If you are unsure of what to call your item, just type “electronics” in the first box. The search results screen will include a listing of specific items you can search for as well as the recyclers who accept any of these items.
Several electronics recycling businesses service Arkansas. Contact the following
for details about their services and fees.
Many computer manufacturers will recycle computer equipment for a fee. Some will
accept only their own products; others will accept equipment from any manufacturer.
Check the manufacturer’s Web site for details:
Some cell phone manufacturers also have recycling programs in place. Most of
these programs are free; they may even earn money for schools or charities.
In addition, many stores that sell cellular phones will accept them for recycling
or reuse. Ask about recycling when you purchase a new cell phone.
Where can I Donate or Recycle My Old Computer and Other Electronics Products? -
www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/materials/ecycling/donate.htm#local – This U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) web page provides links to information about a number of options for reuse and recycling of unwanted electronic items. These are grouped into three major categories – Find a Local Program, Manufacturer and Retailer Programs, and Government-Supported Donation and Recycling Programs – with multiple links under each.
EIA Consumer Education Initiative (CEI) –
www.eiae.org – The Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA), a trade association
for the electronics industry, has developed the Consumer Education Initiative Web
site to help households and small businesses find environmentally responsible options
for donating and recycling electronics in their community. This web site also provides
information on what member companies are doing to incorporate environmental attributes
into electronic products.
Wireless … The New Recyclable –
www.recyclewirelessphones.com – is working to reduce the environmental effects
of wireless communication products. A program of the CTIA – The Wireless Association,
the Web site provides information about environmental programs, including recycling,
of member organizations and companies.
EPA’s Product Stewardship Program –
www.epa.gov/epr/ – EPA’s Product Stewardship program encourages environmentally
sustainable management of a variety of products, including electronics. Visit the
program’s web site for information about electronics stewardship projects that are
occurring across the country.
National Recycling Coalition (NRC) –
www.nrc-recycle.org – NRC is a non-profit group dedicated to advancing recycling
and source reduction. NRC’s Electronics Recycling Initiative web site contains information
on procurement and other electronics recycling issues.