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

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs