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Recycling Electronic Trash
Electronic equipment may be hazardous to the environment.
The unfortunate truth is that most old electronic equipment is simply disposed of in landfills. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1.84 million tons of TVs, cell phones and computers and equipment were tossed in the trash in 2007.
Not only does this take up space in landfills, many electronics contain toxins that can leak into the soil. For example, computer monitors or televisions with cathode ray tubes contain on average 4 to 8 pounds of lead, according to the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, an environmental advocacy group.
You don’t have to add to this waste stream. Diverting electronics from landfills requires some simple steps.
The EPA suggests that owners reduce the amount of electronic waste at its source, donating old, but still working, computers, TVs and music players to schools, recreation centers, charities and other organizations that might need them.
Businesses that donate computers and peripheral equipment might even qualify for tax incentives. The EPA cites the 21st Century Classrooms Act, which passes out incentives to large companies that donate computer equipment to public and private schools.
Send it back
Owners may also be able to send their old electronic equipment back to the companies that made them. Dell, HP and Apple, for instance, all have policies that allow owners to send back old equipment when they purchase new electronics. Owners should check with the manufacturers of their electronic equipment to see what kind of take-back programs they offer.
If donating old electronics is not an option, owners can also send their old computers, TVs and cell phones to recyclers, who recover more than 100 million pounds of materials from electronics each year, according to the EPA. Many municipalities offer pick-up days each year for electronics, while counties across the United States have specially designated drop-off sites for electronics. Call your municipality to ask about your options for disposing of old electronics.
Reducing the amount of electronics that enter the solid waste stream is an important task, mainly because the amount of this waste is steadily growing. The Telecommunications Industry Association says that owners use their TVs, computers and cell phones for just two to three years. They are then ready to either store these products in their basements or send them into the waste stream.
Fortunately, better options are out there.
Electronic trash by the numbers
Tons of TVs, cell phones and computer products that were disposed of in landfills in 2007.
Tons of TVs, cell phones and computer products that were collected for recycling in 2007.
Percentage of municipal solid waste generated by consumer electronics, according to the EPA.
3 Years – The length of time the original owner keeps a laptop computer on average, according to the Telecommunications Industry Association.
24 Months – The length of time the original owner keeps a cell phone, according to the Telecommunications Industry Association.
TVs switching to digital
A change is coming early next year to the way television stations broadcast their programming. And it’s a change that may render your existing television obsolete.
All full-power broadcast stations in the United States will broadcast only in digital form on Feb. 17, 2009. They will no longer use the traditional analog airwaves. The goal is to provide improved picture and sound quality. Digital also allows for a greater number of channels.
But you don’t need to throw your old TV away.
If you use an antenna – including outside antennas and indoor “rabbit ear” versions – to watch TV on a set with an analog tuner, you will need to purchase a set-top converter box to watch over-the-air TV programming. The boxes receive digital signals and change them into analog format.
Until March 31, 2009, all U.S. households can request up to two coupons worth $40 each to be used toward the purchase of up to two converter boxes. For information about the conversion to digital TV and the set-top converter boxes, visit www.dtv.gov.
Cable and satellite subscribers may need to order new equipment to watch their TVs after the conversion. It’s best to check in with your service provider to find out how the change will affect you.