Over the last two years, Randolph county residents legally discarded over 48 tons of electronics through collection at Pollution Solution, the only county run Household Hazardous waste drop off center for area residents. Illegal disposal of TV’s in the trash, recycling bins and along roadsides and in ditches may account for another couple of tons. That’s a lot of TV’s, computer towers, and printers!
What is E-Waste Anyway?
Any electronic device that is at the end of its useful life is considered e-waste. The trouble is that “end of its useful life” is a subjective measure. Many of the electronics brought out to Pollution Solution for recycling still work just fine, though they are considered outdated or are no longer supported by current software updates. Many items are fixable and would continue to serve well for many years but the cost of fixing a problem often seems to make no sense when compared to simply buying a new product. The truth is that most electronics today are built to have only a short 2-to-3-year life span before they will be replaced or “upgraded”. The result? Used electronics are the world’s fastest growing solid waste stream (Semuels, 2019) .
What’s The Problem With E-Waste?
Only around 25% of used electronics are recycled in the United States. The rest are either incinerated or buried in landfills. This poses environmental risks, as electronics may contain mercury or beryllium, and lithium-ion batteries have been known to cause fires in trash trucks and sorting facilities (Semuels, 2019). Further, many of the components of most electronics are recoverable and when properly handled, can be made into various new products.
What Can Be Done?
Thankfully, Indiana is one of the 19 states in the nation which mandates that e-waste NOT go in the waste stream. Pollution Solution collects electronics during current operating hours between March and October as well as in our upcoming Post-Holiday Electronics Drop Off. The best thing you can do, however, is to buy quality electronics with the purpose of keeping them for as long as possible. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling the need to upgrade every time a manufacturer tweaks their products just a bit. Manufacturers are driving the upgrade cycle in to shorter and shorter time periods in an effort to sell more products, and most electronics manufacturers do not have a end-of-life plan for their products. Resist the urge to go for the newest and best. The hidden cost to the environment may be generations in manifesting itself, but there will be no avoiding it. For a deeper dive into this on going issue see these articles below.
The Global Cost of Electronic Waste
The World Has An E-Waste Problem