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Old Computers are New Problems for Landfills…SO RECYCLE THEM!
At home, work, school and even on airplanes, Americans love their computers. Millions of people surf the internet and send and receive email daily. To keep up with consumer expectations, computer manufacturers are constantly developing faster, smarter and cheaper machines. Industry experts say that a new generation of computer technology is born every 18 months, and users are looking for the latest software and hardware.
In 1996, Americans purchased about 25 million computers, a 21 percent increase over 1995 sales. And with the 21st century here, computer sales increased even more as people tried to avoid the cost of upgrading their old computers to solve the expected year 2000 problems.
Rapid innovation in computer hardware is dramatically cutting the cost and useful life of modern computers, creating a national solid waste problem in the process. Computers are more than just clunky trash; they’re loaded with toxic substances like lead, cadmium, mercury and chromium that can leach into soil and contaminate groundwater.
What happens to the old computers left in the wake of the latest speed demons?
A study at Carnegie Mellon University estimates that 12 million to 14 million computers are discarded annually in the United States. Beyond those estimates, many old computers are being stored in empty offices, classrooms and attics. Some people have a difficult time parting with older machines, having invested a large sum of money in them. But when the day rolls around to gel rid of unwanted computer components, it is important to understand the regulations involved. It’s not as simple as calling your local waste hauler for an extra dumpster.
Old computer equipment such as monitors, keyboards, central processing units (CPU’s) printers, mice, etc.–must be specially managed since their printed circuit boards and cathode ray tubes (CRT’s) contain toxic metals. The toxic metal concentration in circuit boards and CRT’s may exceed federal and state hazardous waste limits. The amount of lead in CRT’s (to protect the user from radiation) is usually about five pounds or 25 percent by weight. Circuit boards typically contain cadmium, mercury and chromium. The package is housed in brominated, flame-retardant plastic.
Because of their toxic metal content, old computers can be subject to full hazardous waste regulation if they are not reused or if metals are not reclaimed from them for reuse. Businesses and institutions are not permitted to dispose of waste computers in solid waste landfills or incinerators, if the toxic metal content exceeds the hazardous waste limits. Otherwise, the toxic metal could contaminate the environment and cause health problems.
In some states, household computers are subject to hazardous waste regulation, if they are managed separately from the rest of the household waste. Note that local ordinances or waste management company business practices may ban disposal of household computers in solid waste landfills or incinerators, even if they are disposed with the rest of the household’s waste.
If you’re a business or institution, sitting on a pile of old computers, the recycling can help you manage your old computers in an environmentally safe manner. Increased computer reuse and recycling should reduce heavy metal contamination of the environment and reduce the burden on businesses and institutions to manage old computers as fully regulated hazardous waste. By recycling, a business or institution may recover some of its original capital investment by qualifying for a tax deduction.
EET can assist any company or organization by implementing a computer recycling program to fit all of the companies individual needs.
EET takes responsibility into our hands and off yours by safe guarding your business institutions interests in a computer equipment recycling program.
EET assures all regulatory requirements are met, all environmental health and safety standards are met and the legal recycling and disposal of all recovered material is handled properly.