You’ve got a dozen or more old computers, keyboards and monitors in the storage room, and you can’t just toss them in the dumpster because it’s against the law – they’re full of dangerous chemicals and metals. So who are you going to call?
Try Better Environment Through Technology Recycling. BETTR, as it calls itself, is hosting a two-day recycling fair for old electronic equipment from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Fountain Wal-Mart at 6310 S. Highway 85-87.
But be prepared to ante up. It costs $15 for each monitor, $10 for each CPU – that’s the part that sits on the desk or floor, and holds the drives and other components, $1 for keyboards, or 35 cents per pound for large office equipment. There is no charge for old cell phones, which are donated to TESSA, formerly the Center for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.
In Colorado, many types of electronic equipment are considered hazardous waste. Non-residential users (business, government, and educational institutions) cannot send color monitors, color televisions, or other electronic devices for disposal in landfills. Cathode ray tubes in color monitors and color televisions consistently exceed the allowable limits for lead, and many other components (integrated circuit boards, etc.) often fail toxicity tests for heavy metals.
A computer contains significant levels of hazardous chemicals. The following table lists amounts commonly found in a typical desktop computer weighing 60 pounds. Many of these metals leach into ground water and are toxic to humans.
Metal Weight Plastics 13.8 pounds
Aluminum 8.5 pounds
Copper 4.1 pounds
Lead 3.8 pounds
Zinc 1.3 pound
Nickel 8 ounces
Beryllium 1/7th ounce
Manganese 3/10 ounce
Antimony 1/10th ounce
Cadmium 1/10th ounce
Chromium 1/16th ounce
Mercury 1/47th ounce
Arsenic 1/78th ounce
Legislation having to do with electronic waste has been introduced in 20 states this year, and even Washington is getting into the act with Rep. Mike Thompson, D-CA, introducing a bill requiring computer manufacturers to charge consumers a $10 recycling fee when computers are sold. Many believe manufacturers should have been doing that all along, but manufacturers contend the responsibility lies with the consumer.
Some companies, such as Gateway, have offered rebates to customers when they turn in old computers when purchasing new ones, while Hewlett-Packard offers recycling to corporate customers – at a cost.
A 1999 study conducted by Stanford Resources, Inc. for the National Safety Council projected that in 2001, more than 41 million personal computers would become obsolete in the U.S. In California alone, more than 6,000 computers become obsolete every day. Between the years 1997 and 2007, experts estimate that we will have more than 500 million obsolete computers in the United States. The table below shows the massive amounts of hazardous plastics and toxic heavy metals contained in half a billion computers.
Plastics 6.32 Billion Pounds
Lead 1.58 Billion Pounds
Cadmium 3 Million Pounds
Mercury 632,000 Pounds
Chromium 1.9 Million Pounds
The three primary offenders are:
Lead – Lead causes damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, blood systems, kidney and reproductive system in humans. Effects on the endocrine system have been observed and its serious negative effects on children’s brain development are well documented.
Cadmium – Cadmium compounds are toxic with a possible risk of irreversible effects on human health, and accumulate in the human body, particularly the kidneys.
Mercury – Mercury can cause damage to various organs including the brain and kidneys, as well as the fetus. When inorganic mercury spreads out in the water, it is transformed to methylated mercury which easily accumulates in living organisms and concentrates through the food chain, particularly via fish.
BETTR is a program of the Clean Air Campaign of the Pikes Peak region. Through community collection events, BETTR has collected over 8,000 electronic components from the Pikes Peak region – or more than 50 tons of hazardous electronic equipment, which would have become a part of local landfills.
Many computers have been given to more than 75 local schools and nonprofit organizations for re-use. The rest were shipped to an organization that refurbished or recycled the remaining components.
Additionally, BETTR has received proclamations by both Gov. Bill Owens and Mayor Marylou Makepeace for its recent efforts in electronics recycling and reuse.
For more information about the upcoming collection event visit www.bettr.org or contact Alicia Archibald, Clean Air Campaign, 719/633-4343, ext. 203.