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Toxics in computers, TVs becoming an e-mergency.

Byline: Recycling by Pete Chism For The Register-Guard

ON SATURDAY, May 11, Lane County residents can, for a small fee, recycle their televisions, computers, printers, monitors and keyboards from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Glenwood Central Receiving Station.

The event is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to take personal responsibility for a waste that is of growing national and international concern. In fact, in the United States, it is the fastest growing segment of our waste stream.

The question of responsibility springs from the toxic nature of `e-waste' (electronic waste). The typical computer monitor and average television contains between 4 pounds and 8 pounds of lead, and smaller amounts of mercury, cadmium and lithium. If not properly managed, these heavy metals can pollute the environment and affect human health.

The sponsors of the one-day event, BRING Recycling and the University of Oregon Environmental Studies Service Learning Program, have paid particular attention to responsibly managing the e-waste they collect.

In recent months, the news media have reported on the export of e-waste to some Asian countries. The reports include horror stories about components being left in fields and along river banks after being burned, smashed and treated with acid to remove minimal amounts of gold and silver.

BRING and the UO Learning Program assure Lane County residents that their monitors and TVs will be recycled responsibly. Reusable computers and computer parts will be evaluated initially by St. Vincent de Paul, which will screen them for reuse.

Macintosh computers will be sent to MacRenewal in Eugene, where they will be refurbished and donated to children whose families are in need. The remaining items will be shipped to Nxtcycle, a company that employs prison labor at the Gunnison Correctional Facility in Utah.

Approximately 20,000 monitors and TVs are processed at Gunnison monthly. Plastics from the computer systems will be sent to MBA Technologies in Richmond, Calif., where the plastics will be recycled.

The bulk of a monitor or TV is a cathode ray tube, or CRT. The CRT consists of between 15 pounds and 90 pounds of glass.

At Gunnison, the CRTs will be extracted and non-glass elements removed. The glass will be crushed and shipped to Envirocycle in Hallstead, Penn., where it will be used in the manufacture of new CRTs.

Because the sponsors have gone to considerable lengths to make sure that materials collected are handled responsibly, a fee of from $5 to $10 will be charged on monitors and TVs, depending on size. The fee will help to cover the cost of collection and shipment, and Nxtcycle fees.

The current system of recycling electronics is in its infancy. However, a coalition called the National Electronics Product Stewardship Initiative is working towards solutions to recycling e-waste, such as tacking on recycling costs at the point of purchase.

The group also is redesigning the process of recycling electronics. Some of the issues: designing products with source reduction, reuse and recycling in mind; reducing toxicity; increasing recycled content; and paying for recycling. For more information about the initiative, visit the Web site at eerc.ra.utk.edu/clean/nepsi/.

Millions of electronic devices, computers in particular, become obsolete each year as the high-tech industry pumps out faster, better and less expensive products. In the next four years, an increasing number of televisions will join this flow as the Federal Communications Commission requires transmission signals for televisions to be converted from analog to digital technology.

The estimated 768,000 televisions in Lane County homes alone - that's 2.4 televisions per person, will be obsolete, which gives you an idea of the scope of the disposal problem that lies ahead.

Pete Chism is a waste reduction specialist with Lane County Waste Management. His e-mail address is pete.chism@co.lane.or.us.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:May 4, 2002
Words:630
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