Green Visions: Electronic Waste
The fact of the matter is that many electronics end up in the landfill. The ease of throwing these items in the garbage far outweighs the ability and drive to recycle them. "Less than 20 percent of these are recycled [worldwide]," says Matt Mlinar, program director with the Natural Resources Research Institute. "In the US it's actually closer to 9 percent."
Throwing away electronics goes beyond the standard woes of simply creating more garbage; valuable and finite materials get discarded with each cell phone, computer, television, printer, etc. "Electronic waste may contain... copper, gold, silver," says Shashi Rao, research scientist with the NRRI. "They also come with hazardous metals like mercury and lead."
Regulation is a huge driving force for e-waste recycling. "Twenty-five states in the US have passed legislation mandating statewide e-waste recycling," says Rao. The value of the metals and environmental impact are also driving forces behind e-waste recycling.
What actions can be taken? Beyond government involvement, individuals can take appropriate action when discarding their electronics. "Almost anything electronic can be recycled or refurbished," says Rao. "People should talk to their local recycler or they can contact MPCA (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) or local government."