An 18 Ton Computer: What to do with E-waste
Does your desktop weigh 18 tons? Not by the time it gets to you, but according to United Nations University in the Oct. 13th issue of Waste News, the average desktop PC uses 18 tons of raw materials and 480 lbs of fossil fuels to manufacture. Think a laptop is a more environmentally sound purchase? The average laptop takes 10 tons of raw materials. Your average old-school computer monitor (i.e. the ones everyone is now trying to get rid of) contains anywhere from 4 to 8 lbs. of lead.
So what is an eco-friendly person to do with all of this nasty-ness?
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
First step, look into what you are purchasing. Some computers are much more eco-friendly. This requires some homework, but is well worth it. A past article in the Christian Science Monitor addresses some places to look. Also. Think about the up-grade-ability (that word was specifically created for my computer tech husband who loves when I get all technical with my verbiage). Though larger, desktops with real live towers are WAY WAY WAY easier to upgrade than a laptop. Consider this while making a purchasing decision. I own a laptop because I was under the assumption when I bought it that I would be taking it to classes (I didn’t), studying at the library (where is that place again?), and probably blogging from the top of some mountain that I only got to the top of with great assistance from a llama (yeah…no.). Be realistic about your needs before you purchase an item.
Recycling options are available. In Waukesha County there is a free program for residents for computers and computer related components. If you are elsewhere in Wisconsin, check out www.RecycleMoreWisconsin.org in order to get information for your community on a wide variety of recycling issues.
Electronics beyond computers are not accepted in Waukesha County’s program. With February 2009 looming, many people will be faced with a little conundrum. To reduce waste, you may get a converter box that will allow you to keep your current television. The government has a website that answers a lot of questions about this type of converter. If you have decided to replace your current TV, don’t forget about the disposal costs associated with your old set. Due to all of the metals, some toxic, the most environmentally responsible thing to do is to recycle your TV. This can be done through several local recycling companies. Otherwise, you will have to pay a fee for your hauler to take the TV to a landfill. We recommend negotiating the recycling of your old TV or product with the store from which you purchase your new TV. Recently, legislation in the Wisconsin state legislature tried to make this policy required. Some companies are starting up end-of-life recycling programs for their electronics, so check with the company that made your TV or computer as well.
Last but not least, the EPA released new standards for electronic recycling programs last Friday. While this is just the first step, eventually this will become a certification program so that you know your electronics are being handled in an environmentally friendly way.