E-waste flooding landfills

E-waste flooding landfills
You might be interested in this piece on waste EEE from USA Today.

Yesterday’s computers, cell phones, VCRs and television sets are headed
for the nation’s 2,200 landfills by the ton. Cities and states are
scrambling to cope with electronic waste. Although discarded
electronics make up only 1% of the USA’s garbage volume, “proliferation
of consumer electronics has gotten way ahead of cities and counties’
ability to deal with it,” says Michael Alexander, senior research
associate of the National Recycling Coalition in Alexandria, Va.

It’s not just collection and landfill costs that worry some officials
and consumer advocates. Watchdog groups fear that lead, cadmium,
mercury and other hazardous materials in electronic devices could leak
from landfills into groundwater and endanger public health and the
environment. The consumer electronics industry, however, says health
concerns are exaggerated. “If it’s safe enough to be placed on the
table where you eat,” says Sony Electronics Vice President Mark Small,
“it should be safe enough in a landfill.”

The focus on discarded electronics, or “e-waste,” comes as the growth
of recycling slows across the USA. “In the 1990s, we got the easy
stuff” such as cans, bottles and newspapers, says Bruce Goddard,
spokesman for the Alameda County Waste Management Authority in the San
Francisco Bay Area. “Now we have the tough ones left to deal with —
like e-waste.”

E-waste topped the agenda at last week’s 20th annual National Recycling
Congress here. This week, government, industry, academic and
activist-group representatives will meet in Tampa as part of a yearlong
effort to find a national solution. The meeting is funded in part by
the Environmental Protection Agency. Manufacturers, retailers, local
and state governments, and consumer activists agree that reusing and
recycling electronics is the best way to cope with e-waste. But with
less than 10% now recycled, the agreement stops there. The debate
centres on who is responsible: manufacturers, retailers, consumers,
waste handlers or all of them.

“There is only one person who is going to pay this in the end, and that
is the consumer,” Small says, “whether it’s a hidden fee at the time of
purchase or some kind of tax or payment at the end. Our goal is to make
the payment be zero.”

Some countries in Europe and Asia have enacted “extended producer
responsibility” laws. They require manufacturers or importers to
collect their products at “end of life” and ensure sorting and
recycling — often without additional charge. In the USA, many local
governments are struggling to find an answer. “Cities and towns have
the most responsibility for handling the trash and the least power to
compel manufacturers to deal with it,” says Geoff Beckwith, a former
Massachusetts state legislator and executive director of the
Massachusetts Municipal Association. Diverse solutions are being tested:

Hundreds of drop-off programmes are being operated across the country by governments, non-profit groups, retailers, manufacturers and recyclers.
Consumers sometimes pay a fee. The Electronics Industries Alliance, an industry group, offers a state-by-state list on www.eiae.org. ·
California and Massachusetts have banned computer monitors from the states’ landfills and incinerators. Several dozen cities in the two states, including San Francisco, also have passed resolutions supporting “producer take-back” rules.
A few cities pick up electronic trash curbside. Others provide referrals to recyclers.
Seattle’s King County publishes a list of 32 recyclers, retailers and charities that accept e-waste or trade-ins.
Non-profit groups are promoting the use of discarded computers that may still be useful for schools and job training.
In Connecticut, manufacturers Sony,Panasonic and Sharp pay a recycler to process their products that onsumers turn in at statewide collection events.

Ano da Publicação: 2002
Fonte: Warmer Bulletin enews #4 2002
Autor: Natália Caninas
Email do Autor: natalia@openlink.com.br

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