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Why Recycle? Toxic Materials In Electronics!

Computer Hard Drives In LandfillsWhy Recycle? Toxic Materials In Electronics!

This is part 3 of our 4 Part series on “Why You Should Care About Recycling Your Electronics”

We Americans love to buy the newest electronic gadgets but did you know that many times there are over 1,000 materials used in creating these devices.   For example, the materials that are used to manufacture computers and components of the computer, like semiconductor chips, circuit boards and disk drives, include chlorinated solvents, brominated flame retardants (BFR’s), PVC, heavy metals, plastics and gases.

Older TV’s and CRT monitor’s (non-flat screen) contain 4 to 8  pounds of lead. Newer flat panel TVs and monitors contain less lead, but use mercury lamps. “About 40% of the heavy metals, including lead, mercury and cadmium, in landfills come from electronic equipment discards” according to the Electronics Take Bake Coalition.

Ok, “so what” you may be asking yourself? Let’s take a look at what are some of the health risks associated with the toxins.

1.      Lead- Most people know that exposure to lead is bad and that it has been banned from use in many consumer products, but here’s a refresher on why; lead exposure causes brain damage in children, severe nervous system impairments, infertility, birth defects, and cause Heart and Kidney issues. According to UNEP, United Nations Environment Programme, report on Lead Exposure, “There is no threshold for safe exposure”, meaning any exposure could cause a serious irreversible health threat.

2.      Mercury-Is toxic even in smallest amounts, only 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury can contaminate 20 acres of a lake, making the fish unfit to eat. Mercury causes brain and kidney damage and can be passed on through breast milk.

3.      Cadmium-Can accumulates in the body over time and poisons the Kidneys.

4.      BFRs (Brominated flame retardants)- are similar to PCB’s in their molecular structure. The long term effects of BFR exposure in human is still under investigation, but according to an EPA report on the Health Effects of BFRs has show to cause cognitive, reproductive and thyroid issues, as well, as to cause diabetes in animal studies. This study also showed a staggering increase of BFRs in human biological samples.

By recycling your electronics you are helping to properly dispose of these harmful toxins and reduce the risk of them polluting the soil, air and water. If your still questioning, why electronics recycling is important, maybe ask yourself would you want any of these chemicals leaching into water table that pumps water into your home and to your family?

An electronics recycling charity event will be held in Downtown Ocala, FL on March 30th, 2011 for anyone in the Ocala, Gainesville and Central Florida area who wants to do the right thing and help raise money for a local charity.

3 Reasons Why Old Electronics Don’t Belong In the Trash

Electronic Equipment LandfillThis is Part 2 of 4 blog postings that will help explain why electronics (E-Waste) don’t belong in the trash. There are 3 main reasons that we will break down and why it’s important.

1.      There are toxic chemicals inside electronics. Electronics contain chemicals like lead, mercury, beryllium, cadmium, arsenic, and halogenated flame retardants in the plastics.   Electronics, like old TV’s and CRT monitors contain between 4-8 lbs of lead in them (among other chemicals). It is widely known the effects of lead on humans.  When these items are sent to landfills they will eventually break down over time and the concern is that these toxins could leach into groundwater.  Many people argue that landfill linings will prevent this but many landfills were developed prior to the double lining requirement came into effect. In addition, many experts agree that all landfills will fail eventually, although it may be in 100 years, according to the Electronics TakeBack Coalition. Deeming it inappropriate to bury these toxic chemicals for future generations to deal with

2.      There are recyclable materials in electronics. Many of the metals used in electronics can be recycled for manufacturing new products. With the rising cost of metals, this is a tremendous waste of a non-renewable resource by burying them in landfills.

3.      Landfill space is limited. Electronics also take up a lot of room in the landfills – picture those large tube TVs and monitors, printers, VCRs, etc.  Some states or counties are running out of room in their landfills, and its expensive to build new ones.

Recycling your electronics is easier than most people think. Most counties have scheduled drop off dates and the number of local recyclers is growing.  Just do a search online for “electronics recycling {your county name}” and you will likely find someone.  It may take a little extra effort than just throwing electronics into the trash but hopefully the 3 reasons above will incent you to make that effort.

If you are located in the Ocala, Gainesville or Marion County area, Sun Digital is hosting an electronics recycling charity event, on March 30th, 2011 where the proceeds earned will be donated to the Early Learning Coalition. You can find the details on the Sun Digital website link above.

Why Isn’t Electronics Recycling Important To Everyone?

Toxic Pile Electronic Equipment

The EPA just released the 2009 E-Waste stats and again shows a pathetic percentage of electronics are being recycled,  with 82.3% of E-Waste is ending up in landfills v. being properly recycled.  What was shocking was the residential contribution of E-Waste accounts for 55-65% of the total E-Waste generated.

This stat was brought to reality for me, when I recently participated in a charity eRecycle drive. The recycler putting on the event very clearly stated that they would accept old TV’s and CRT’s (non-flat screens) as a community service but there would be a $5 charge, to cover the cost of properly disposing of those items.  Many people who brought these types of items had no problem with this $5 fee, however the vast majority not only were angry about the charge and flat out refused to pay but also threatened to:

  • “Leave it by the curb for the garbage man to pick up”
  • “Throw it in the dump”
  • “Throw it out the window on the side of the road”

These are just a couple of examples of statements made. I’m leaving out the ones that used profanity.   I was in shock, by this reaction! This made me realize that sometimes when you are immersed in a subject or cause, you think everyone is just as passionate as you are. This situation burst my “bubble” that everyone did not share my enthusiasm and the recent EPA report just backs that up.  How do we fix this, you may ask?….education!

This blog has been primarily focused on helping Florida businesses to go Green with their IT but for the next couple of weeks, we are going to focus on why it’s important for everyone to think Green when they are trying to figure out what to do with old/unwanted electronic items.

For anyone who is interested in recycling in the Ocala, Gainesville or Central Florida area Sun Digital is sponsoring an Electronics Recycling Charity Event, March 30th, 2011 from 7am-6pm. Please visit the Sun Digital website for further details.

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Sun Digital, Inc

Sun Digital is the sponsor of this site and is committed to bringing Green IT awareness and solutions to small and medium size companies in the Ocala, Gainesville and Central Florida areas. Sun Digital is located at 7 East Silver Springs Blvd. Suite 202, Ocala FL 34470.

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