News / Science & Technology

US Communities Adopt Electronic Waste Laws, Recycling Programs

Electronic waste such as old televisions, computers, radios and cellular phones is a growing environmental problem
Electronic waste such as old televisions, computers, radios and cellular phones is a growing environmental problem

Multimedia

Chris Simkins

There is a growing problem of what to do with electronic waste such as old televisions, computers, radios, cellular telephones and other electronic equipment.  

Electronic trash, known as e-waste, is piling up faster than ever in American homes and businesses.  People do not know what to do with old televisions or computers so they throw them in the trash.  

National Solid Wastes Management Association state programs director Chaz Miller says the large amount of electronic waste Americans generate is not unexpected.

"We have so many electronic products that we use," said Miller.  "They are being far more widely distributed throughout the population of the country and they tend to have relatively short life spans.  Cell phones that last two or three years, computers that last maybe two or three years before they get replaced."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates more than 400 million consumer electronic items are dumped each year, and there is a push by more states to ban the waste from landfills and create recycling programs.  

For example, as quickly as old electronics arrive at a recycling facility in Baltimore, Maryland they are torn apart and sorted for useable parts.  Plant manager Mike Fannon says e-waste here is resold to other companies that further break down the components that are valuable.

"There are a lot of valuable metals that can be recovered and reused as opposed to just putting them in the landfill, and in certain components there are some materials that should not really be dumped in the landfill," Fannon explained.

Fannon says nearly 20 percent of electronic waste is recycled nationwide.  Going back 13 years, it was only about six percent.  Recycling rates continue to rise as more communities have banned electronics from landfills in an effort to keep e-waste toxins like lead and mercury out of garbage dumps.  Many places have set up free drop off events where people can bring old items for recycling.  

Fannon says some items like old electronic circuit boards will get shipped to Canada, while other parts will be shipped to countries in Asia.

"These will go off actually to a copper smelter and they will go to recover the copper which is in a lot out of the lines within the [circuit] board itself but at the same time they recover precious metals that are on the board," added Fannon.  "There is gold plating on a lot of the material.  There is silver.  So all those precious metals are recovered in addition to the copper."

This year several states like Vermont imposed a ban on electronic waste in landfills.  More than 25 other states have also adopted landfill bans, e-waste recycling programs or both.  Chaz Miller says more can be done to boost electronic waste recycling.

"We can do much better than what is almost a 20-percent [e-waste] recycling rate," noted Miller.  "I think clearly our goal should be to do as well with electronics products as say we do recycling newspapers."

Waste management analysts say U.S. facilities can safely recycle items.  Environmentalists maintain they can reduce the amount of electronic waste in landfills now by raising consumer awareness about the best ways to recycle e-waste.

You May Like

Analysis: China Raises Hong Kong Rhetoric to Tiananmen Level

A front-page commentary in The People’s Daily called the current demonstrations 'chaos,' the same word Party officials used 25 years ago to describe the Tiananmen Square protests More

US Airstrikes Anger Syrian Civilians Fleeing Their Homes

Pentagon officials say they have seen no credible evidence of civilian deaths caused by US airstrikes against Islamic State militants More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid