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Saving the planet, one CD player at time

• Roll up your greensleeves and recycle your e-waste.

Posted: April 5, 2008 2:11 p.m.
Updated: June 6, 2008 5:02 a.m.

When your electronic devices, including CD players (above) and computers (below, far left), reach the end of their useful life, they become e-waste and should be recycled. Dumping e-waste is illegal, wasteful and bad for the environment. There will be a free e-waste recycling collection at College of the Canyons on April 19. Bring in your televi...

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"Some older televisions have four to eight pounds of lead in them," said Duane Morton.

Woah, that's heavy, man.

So, the shelves in your garage look like a Smithsonian Institution display on the history of personal computers. Every one you've ever owned - from that old Commodore 64, through the iMac, right up to the ultra-thin laptop you spilled coffee on last year - is stacked there, gathering dust. You just can't bear to part with them because they represent all those decades you'll never get back.

And then there's the big drawer in your desk, hosting its own pile of evolution, from the 1980s Motorola "car phone" right up to the Razor phone you dropped in the toilet. You can't let those go because the tumor they grew in your head likes to hear them ring every now and then.

Brother, release. The Smithsonian isn't going to come calling and you aren't going to get big bucks for your old electronics on eBay (well, you might with the car phone). It's time to do the right thing and recycle your e-waste. And there will be a perfect opportunity on April 19 at College of the Canyons during the One Earth, One Day e-waste collection.

Why recycle?

Now, unless you've been asleep for a few years, you know it is no longer kosher or legal to dump your electronics in the trash. It's wrong on several levels. First, it just causes more "fill" in the landfill. Second, a variety of toxic metals and chemicals inhabit those electronics.

"These are not inert," said Duane Morton, who is the owner of the local 1-800-GOT-JUNK? franchise. "They end up in the water, the fish, the food and, eventually, in us."

And, finally, tossing out your old electronics is wasteful. Those metals and other materials in the electronics can be reused.

Besides, you've already paid to recycle your e-waste. Yup, when you purchase those televisions and computer monitors, the state of California adds a waste recycling fee.

Morton explained it like this: The customer buys the TV and pays the fee, which the California Integrated Waste Management Board will use a portion of to help pay for the process of getting that TV recycled when its useful life is finished. When you are done with your TV, collectors, such at Morton's company, collect the TV and deliver it to a recycler. The recycler pays approximately 18-20 cents per pound for this material. The State then pays the recycler approximately 48 cents per pound for the material when the recycler has processed it.

End-of-use

Morton said that, in addition to the lead in the older cathode-ray-tube TVs and in computer monitors, there is also cadmium.

Cadmium is also found in other electronics components, along with chromium, nickel and zinc. Basically, these metals are found in "anything that has a circuit board." That includes cell phones. He added that LCD screens contain mercury, which is one of the more dangerous metals to release into the environment.

Advancing technology is constantly increasing the amount of used electronics in need of recycling. And Morton said he expects a real spike in the number of old televisions available for disposal when the new digital broadcasts take effect (though folks can easily adapt their analog TVs to digital use).

"The bigger issue is that people need to be educated that they can't just throw their electronics away," he said. As an example, he noted that we've all seen old televisions lying by the side of the road.

Doing his part

Morton, a Princeton University grad with an MBA from the University of Michigan, opened his Got Junk franchise in 2005, with a desire to give back a little something to the world. His motto is to "do well, and do good" at the same time. He finds fulfillment of this by helping his customers clean out their clutter and by properly disposing of it. If an item can be reused, it's reused. If not, it's recycled when possible. He noted that his company is operating at "50 to 60 percent landfill diversion" and is constantly trying to increase this. He also noted that it is e-waste certified by the state of California.

One Earth, One Day

Earth Day is April 22, and it's no coincidence the 1-800-GOT-JUNK? nationwide campaign, "One Earth, One Day, Rid Your Junk the Right Way," is being held as close to that date as possible. Morton said that franchises across the U.S. and Canada will all host e-waste collections on April 19.

"All the things collected at the e-waste event will be 100 percent recycled," he said.

A portion of the proceeds from the COC event will go toward supporting the COC Sustainable Development Committee and the curriculums it is developing.

Because this is the first time he has hosted such an event, Morton really has no idea how many electronic items will be brought in.

Consequently, he has set a 500-unit capacity. When collectors have all they can handle, they will close down. He also specifies that only certain items will be collected and from residential customers only.

Those items are televisions, computer monitors, laptops, cell phones and PDAs. He offered an FYI that for other things you need to dispose of, there will be a household hazardous waste collection at COC on April 12.

For more information call Duane Morton at (661) 298-5865.

One Earth, One Day Rid Your Junk the Right Way

1-800-GOT-JUNK? of Santa Clarita presents "One Earth, One Day"

Sponsored by the College of the Canyons Sustainable Development Committee Saturday, April 19

College of the Canyons (Lot 5) 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road

8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. (or until the 500 unit capacity is reached)

Note: Free collection and proper recycling of residential televisions, computer monitors, laptops, cell phones and PDAs only.

Electronic Waste Recycling Fee
Implementing SB 20
California Integrated Waste Management Board

One of the key elements of the Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003 that affects product retailers and consumers is the Electronic Waste Recycling Fee, which will be assessed on the sale, as defined, of covered electronic products.

Since January 1, 2005, retailers collect the Electronic Waste Recycling Fee on covered electronic devices from consumers. Retailers remit these fees to the Board of Equalization.

Initial Electronic Waste Recycling Fee Amount:
Viewable Screen Size (measured diagonally) - Electronic Waste Recycling Fee
Greater than 4 inches and less than 15 inches - $6
Equal to or greater than 15 inches and less than 35 inches - $8
35 inches and larger - $10

- from www.ciwmb.ca.gov/Electronics/Act2003/Retailer/Fee/

How much e-waste is in the waste stream?

Used consumer electronics represent less than two percent of the municipal solid waste stream. In 2005, discarded TVs, PCs, peripherals (including printers, scanners, faxes), mice, keyboards and cell phones totaled about 2 million tons. Of that, about 80 - 85 percent (1.5 -
1.9 million tons) was discarded, primarily in landfills.

How much e-waste is recycled?

In 2005, discarded TVs, PCs, peripherals (including printers, scanners, faxes), mice, keyboards and cell phones were recycled at a rate of about 15 - 20 percent (345,000 to 379,000 tons). The recycled/disposed split remained fairly constant between 1999 - 2005. Although recycling continues to increase, the percentage recycled remains constant because of the ever-increasing number of electronics available for end-of-life management.

What are the substances of potential concern in electronics?

Lead, mercury, cadmium and brominated flame retardants are among the substances of concern in electronics. These substances are included in the products for important performance characteristics, but can cause problems if the products are not properly managed at end-of-life.

Lead is used in glass in TV and PC cathode-ray tubes as well as solder and interconnects; older CRTs typically contain on average of 4 lbs.

of lead (sometimes as much as 7 lbs. in older CRTs), while newer CRTs contain closer to 2 lbs. of lead.

Mercury is used in small amounts in bulbs to light flat panel computer monitors and notebooks.

Brominated flame retardants are widely used in plastic cases and cables for fire retardancy; the more problematic ones have been phased out of newer products but remain in older products.

Cadmium was widely used in ni-cad rechargeable batteries for laptops and other portables. Newer batteries (nickel-metal hydride and lithium ion) do not contain cadmium.

PVC is used in wire and cable sheathing.

What are the environmental benefits of reusing and recycling e-waste?

Electronic products are made from valuable resources, such as precious and other metals, plastics and glass, all of which require energy to mine and manufacture them. Reusing and recycling these materials from end-of-life electronics conserves our natural resources and avoids air and water pollution, as well as greenhouse gas emissions that are caused by manufacturing new products.

- from www.epa.gov/e-Cycling/faq.htm#storage

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