A Guide for Consumers and Businesses
Over the last two decades, spectacular advances in technology have led to a dramatic increase in our reliance on electronic products. Televisions, computers, wireless phones, copiers, fax machines, telephones, and VCRs, are just some of the electronics that have become a central part of our everyday lives. As product innovations multiply and electronic product use increases, the lifespan of electronic equipment has shrunk. Televisions and fax machines may operate for many years, but several electronic products quickly become obsolete when newer, quicker, or better equipment and software hit the shelves. Expensive products are suddenly worth little or nothing even though we may not wa to admit it. s a consumer or a business owner, the question emerges of what to do with old electronic equipment that no longer fully meets your needs and has little residual value.
The purpose of this guide is to encourage you to find ways to reuse and recycle old electronic equipment. Doing so will help others and help the environment.
Electronic Waste: A Growing Phenomenon
A recent study estimates that over 20 million personal computers became obsolete in the United States in 1998. Between 1997 and 2007, nearly 500 million personal computers will become obsolete-almost two computers for each person in the United States. Some studies predict that a large number of televisions will be disposed when high definition television becomes widely available. Many used televisions, monitors, printers, and other types of electronic equipment are finding their fate in attics, basements, and warehouses.
Businesses and households keep these products because they believe that they may still be valuable, but the longer equipment remains in storage, the less useful it becomes.
Fortunately, a growing network of reuse and recycling organizations provides an environmentally and economically sound alternative to disposing of electronic equipment. In addition, a growing number of local governments are looking for ways to encourage alternative management methods to solid waste disposal for these products.
The Importance of Reusing or Recycling Electronic Equipment
Many state and local government agencies are concerned about how to ensure proper management of older electronic equipment. While end-of-life electronics currently comprise only a small amount (1 to 2 percent) of the municipal waste stream, that percentage is expected to grow dramatically in the next few years. Electronic products often contain hazardous and toxic materials that pose environmental risks if they are landfilled or incinerated. Televisions and video and computer monitors use cathode ray tubes (CRTs), which have significant amounts of lead. Printed circuit boards contain primarily plastic and copper, and most have small amounts of chromium, lead solder, nickel, and zinc. In addition, many electronic products have batteries that often contain nickel, cadmium, and other heavy metals. Relays and switches in electronics, especially older ones, may contain mercury. Also, capacitors in some types of older and larger equipment that is now entering the waste stream may contain polychlorinated bihenyls (PCBs).
Because of the presence of these hazardous or toxic substances, state and federal hazardous waste regulations may apply to handling disposal of certain types of electronic equipment. These regulations make businesses potentially liable for improper disposal of electronics. One state has gone so far as to ban landfilling or incineration of certain types of electronic equipment, such as TVs and monitors (because of lead-containing CRT) and batteries.
Reusing and recycling electronic equipment is a beneficial alternative to disposal. Reuse and recycling reduces the amount of toxins and hazardous substances that may enter the environment through disposal. By extending the useful life of products, reuse conserves the energy and raw materials needed to manufacture new products, and doing so reduces the pollution associated with energy use and manufacturing. Recycling electronic equipment also conserves energy and raw materials and reduces pollution in manufacturing by allowing product constituents, such as metals and plastics, to be reclaimed and used in other products.
Large amounts can be brought to the RCSWD Material Recovery Facility on Smith Street in Rutland. Residents and small quantities can be brought to the following locations: Benson Transfer Station, Brandon Transfer Station, Castleton Transfer Station, Chittenden Transfer Station, Clarendon Transfer Station, Danby Transfer Station, Fair Haven Transfer Station, Killington Transfer Station, Middletown Springs Transfer Station, Mount Holly Transfer Station, Pawlet Town Offices, Poultney Transfer Station, Proctor Transfer Station, Rutland County Solid Waste District Regional Transfer Station, Shrewsbury Transfer Station, Sudbury Transfer Station, Tinmouth Transfer Station, Wallingford Transfer Station, and Wells Transfer Station.