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No More Electronics Dumping in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts has become the first state to ban the disposal of computer monitors, televisions, and arcade video games containing cathode ray tubes (CRTs) in public landfills or incinerators. As of 1 April 2000, the state revised its solid waste regulations to require residents to transport old electronics to designated centers or to recycle through curbside collection programs. The state is setting up six centers to collect the outdated machines.

Technology advances almost as fast as new products arrive on the market. The nonprofit National Safety Council, based in Itasca, Illinois, estimates that 20.6 million desktop computers became obsolete in 1998, and about a quarter were simply thrown away. These dumped electronics can pose environmental hazards. The average CRT (the leaded glass picture tube inside the monitor or television) contains 5-8 pounds of lead. Although the updated regulations focus on CRTs, Massachusetts environmental officials expect people to recycle their entire computers. Recycling the complete unit will eliminate further potential environmental hazards since a computer's circuit board may contain other metals besides lead, such as cadmium.

"It is a growing problem right now," said Jeremiah Baumann, an environmental advocate with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in Washington, D.C., in a press release on 10 May 2000. "Computers are filled with all sorts of toxic chemicals--everything from a huge amount of lead in the monitors to mercury and cadmium in other parts of the computers themselves."

Massachusetts dumps an estimated 75,000 tons of electronics equipment each year. The state's Department of Environmental Protection estimates the amount of CRTs dumped will reach a high of up to 300,000 tons annually by 2005, especially as emerging technologies such as high-definition television and digital video disk players become standard. In 2006, federal law will require television broadcasts to switch from analog to digital transmission signals, making old television sets obsolete.

Some other states are also beginning to consider the problem of electronics dumping. In California, for example, residents of San Jose--the heart of Silicon Valley--are encouraged to dump their outdated hard drives, printers, and monitors into curbside recycling containers along with the usual plastic milk jugs and metal soup cans.

Old computer equipment collected in Massachusetts will either be refurbished and resold or broken down into recyclable parts. "We see more and more demand for recycling," said Steve Hess, co-owner of a company that buys, sells, and recycles used computers in Washington State, in an article in the 15 May 2000 Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "When we started six years ago we were recycling 20-50 computers a month. Now it's not uncommon for us to recycle 500 PCs in a month."
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Author:Greene, Lindsey A.
Publication:Environmental Health Perspectives
Date:Sep 1, 2000
Words:439
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