Recycling of electronic items a 'success story' with footnotes

May 14, 2010 By Wendy Koch

Electronics in the U.S. are being recycled in record numbers as more states require it and more companies collect and even pay for discarded items, but the gains come with controversy.

Some complain that is not keeping pace with electronics sales. Some say e-waste is being dumped in , where toxic materials such as lead and mercury can leach from landfills into .

"It is a success story, but we'd like to see it get more successful" to keep up with the electronics boom, says Janette Petersen of the .

The amount of recycled items more than doubled from 1999 to 2007, the most recent year for which the EPA has figures. But as a percentage of all electronics, it increased less, from 15 percent to 18 percent.

"The demand for electronics recycling has been growing," partly because of the switch last year to digital TV, says Jennifer Berry of, a private group that keeps a database of recyclers. Last year, she says 31 percent of inquiries involved electronics, primarily TVs, batteries and computers.

Public and private efforts are expanding:

• Vermont became the 21st state last month to enact a law that requires e-waste recycling.

• Twenty-six companies -- including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, AT&T and Verizon -- have partnered with the EPA on the Plug-In to eCycling program to promote electronics recycling since its launch in 2003.

• Companies such as pay for used gadgets such as iPods, which they resell or recycle.

• Best Buy and other stores are collecting more e-waste. Target announced last month that it put bins in every store to accept cellphones, MP3 players and ink cartridges.

Jim Puckett of Basel Action Network, a Seattle-based non-profit organization that aims to stop toxic exports, worries that some American companies dump e-waste in China and Africa to save money.

"People are trying to look green, but they're not telling you where it (waste) is going," he says. "You can't turn over your TV to just any recycler." He says it's better to store an old TV than give it to a recycler that may export it to a poor country.

The Basel Action Network announced its e-Stewards program last month to ensure safe handling of electronics by using only recyclers certified by accredited organizations.

It now lists 45 recyclers in 80 locations. Samsung and other companies have signed on. Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, back it.

Explore further: Feds and Dell to recycle electronics


Related Stories

Feds and Dell to recycle electronics

December 1, 2005

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Dell Inc. will hold a one-day recycling event in New Orleans for equipment destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Dell bans e-waste export to developing countries

May 12, 2009

(AP) -- PC maker Dell Inc. formally banned on Tuesday the export of broken computers, monitors and parts to developing countries amid complaints that lax enforcement of environmental and worker-safety regulations have allowed ...

Increasingly, states push for e-waste recycling

October 1, 2009

(AP) -- Frustrated by inaction in Congress, a growing number of states are trying to reduce the rising tide of junked TVs, computers and other electronics that have become one of the nation's fastest-growing waste streams.

E-waste trade ban won't end environmental threat

March 22, 2010

A proposal under debate in the U.S. Congress to ban the export of electronics waste would likely make a growing global environmental problem even worse, say authors of an article from the journal Environmental Science and ...

Recommended for you

The ethics of robot love

November 25, 2015

There was to have been a conference in Malaysia last week called Love and Sex with Robots but it was cancelled. Malaysian police branded it "illegal" and "ridiculous". "There is nothing scientific about sex with robots," ...

Tandem solar cells are more efficient

November 23, 2015

Stacking two solar cells one over the other has advantages: Because the energy is "harvested" in two stages, and overall the sunlight can be converted to electricity more efficiently. Empa researchers have come up with a ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.