Over the last two decades, a technological revolution has taken place. Electronic waste (or E-waste) is the inevitable by-product of this technological revolution. Once built to be repairable, consumer electronics are now designed to be replaced and discarded. Discarded electronic equipment is the fastest growing waste stream in the industrialized world rising by 3% to 5% per year, almost three times faster than the municipal waste stream. E-waste is also a growing toxic waste problem as it is one of the largest known sources of heavy metals and organic pollutants in the waste stream.
E-waste represents as much as 5% of waste disposal, more than beverage containers and disposable diapers. Nationally, and estimated 5 to 7 million tons of computers, televisions, stereos, cell phones, and other electronic gadgets become obsolete every year. A small fraction of this waste is being recycled. A sizable portion, remains in E-waste purgatory (unused but stockpiled in closets, garages, basements, and office storerooms). Businesses are waiting for a responsible opportunity to deal with this material and residents do not want to part with such an expensive “investment.”
Cleaned and sorted, the precious metals and other materials that make up E-waste have considerable value on the recycling market. The root problem is a lack of incentives for recycling, and the relatively high cost of dismantling, cleaning and sorting. Without effective phase-outs of hazardous chemicals and reuse and recycling systems, highly toxic chemicals found in electronics will continue to contaminate soil and groundwater as well as pollute the air, posing a threat to wildlife and people.
Marshall County residents may bring their obsolete electronics to the Recycle Depot for recycling. A nominal fee may apply; call (574) 935-8618 for more information.
If you have ever tried to dispose of large appliances, especially those with Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), you know how difficult and expensive it can be. The refrigerant gas (CFC) and the potential for hazardous materials drive up the price for proper disposal. In some cases appliances are disposed of in a manner that harms the environment and leaves the original owner open to liability. Appliances known to contain CFCs include; refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and de-humidifiers.
The Clean Air Act of 1990 required that CFC refrigerants contained in various appliances be removed and recovered prior to disposing of the appliances. If allowed to escape into the air, CFCs contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer. Many older appliances have capacitors and ballasts that may contain PCBs, a cancer causing material now banned in appliances manufactured in the United States. Some appliances contain a mercury switch, which represents a serious health risk if not properly reclaimed.
The Recycle Depot collects appliances (including Freon-containing appliances for a nominal fee.) Contact the Depot at (574) 935-8618 for more information. In addition, scrap dealers also collect appliances for recycling. Metal appliances without Freon are usually accepted with no charge.