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


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

Photogallery Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

This forum has been closed.
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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs