Environment
4:30 am
Mon January 9, 2012

Getting rid of that old TV or computer requires due dilligence

If you didn’t score that 40-inch LCD flat screen for Christmas this year, you might be scanning sales to get one in time for the Superbowl. Whether you’re upgrading or replacing TVs, getting rid of the old clunker can seem like a big project because you can’t just throw it out.

So how do you get rid of electronic waste?

You might not think about it this way, but television sets and other electronics are hazardous waste once they’re broken down – they’re loaded with lead, arsenic and other dangerous chemicals which end up in landfills around the world.  The E–Cycle Washington program provides free recycling for unwanted TV’s, computers, monitors and e-readers.  Miles Kuntz is with the state Department of Ecology.   

“People need to know if giving their materials to somebody who’s taking it for free, they should ask where it’s going and what’s happening to it. That’s one of the pluses of the E-Cycle Washington Program is that the Department of Ecology does oversee the recycling and make sure that it is done responsibly.”

Some of the more functional computers and TV’s get a second life through sales at charities, but with technology improving rapidly, some out-moded stuff ends up being exported to countries such as China and India. That’s because Washington State has no legal control over foreign trade. That creates a dangerous loophole says Jim Puckett with the Basel Action Network, an environmental watchdog group.

“Many of these things are now being looked at internationally and they are illegal in countries that are not the United States like in Europe it’s illegal to export this type of material to developing countries.”

Puckett says the State is moving in the right direction with the Department of Ecology’s program but he also points out its limitations. His organization is trying to address these areas with an international certification program for recyclers called e-Stewards. The program provides yearly independent audits to ensure e-waste is disposed of properly and not exported. 

It also works with recyclers that accept peripherals like fax machines and cell phones, and ensures that private data is destroyed.  The program is one year old and growing with most metropolitan areas covered. 

On the Web:

A zip code search on the e-Stewards Web site can help you find a certified recycler near you.  You can also find a drop-off location for the E-Cycle program by going to ecyclewashington.org.