We just held our electronic recycling event last month. Every year that we do this, we wonder if it is really worth it. Questions abound about whether or not we should offer a recycling event. We open it up to every school within the ESU 4 area. We even shared our successes with ESU 6, and they too joined the effort to keep these "old" devices out of our landfills.
As soon as the project starts, we realize it is worth it, and that it is a service our schools want and need. We keep thinking that we will have less e-waste each year, but then we realize that upgrades are needed and old equipment (and new) can fail unexpectedly. The amount in total freight that was brought to our warehouse was actually much larger than anticipated. We get the chore of stacking and shrink wrapping pallets in order for the waste to be shipped to the recycling company. The semi-truck will hold up to twenty-six pallets. We ended up with twenty-four.
So...why do we do this? For many reasons. We came up with some research that we found printed in the online version of USA today. Here are some statistics we should all be aware of when our old computers (school or personal) no longer function. This article was printed on July 6, 2008:
"E-waste, or electronics trash, is piling up faster than ever, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Americans discarded 47 million computers in 2005, up from 20 million in 1998. Factor in other forms of electronics, and the nation now dumps between 300 million and 400 million electronic items per year, according to estimates from the EPA and the TakeBack Coalition.
E-waste disposal rates are poised to accelerate in the run-up to a nationwide switch to digital television signals in February. Less than 20% of all electronic waste is recycled, according to the EPA. The rest ends up in landfills."
Furthermore, it is not good enough for us to choose just any electronic recycler. We spend a lot of time choosing a responsible recycler. According to the article in USA Today, "U.S. law (unlike Europe's) permits the export of electronic waste to developing nations." These nations include China, Pakistan, and India.
Some events are hosted for free, and some recyclers charge a fee to recycle electronic waste. Please take the time to do some research before recycling. And, please don't just throw those old electronics in the trash. After we read articles like the one mentioned above and see the pallets of electronic waste in our warehouse, we realize how important this is for our schools and our environment.
For more information about electronic recycling, please check out these links: