Computers, cell phones, TV sets, DVD players and other electronics are constantly updated. Your family may want the latest models, but what will you do with the old computer and other electronics you already have?
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calls "e-waste" a growing problem. Electronic waste may account for only 4 percent of the "total waste stream" in the United States, the EPA says, but it's growing two to three times faster than any other kind of waste.
Disposing of electronic devices impacts the environment in some dangerous ways:
• Computers and older TV picture tubes can contain two to four pounds of lead and require special handling when disposed.
• Electronics may also contain mercury, cadmium and brominated flame retardants - all toxic materials.
Instead of trying to toss that old computer or TV, the EPA urges us to:
• Donate any newer, still functioning equipment. Schools, community organizations and charities may welcome these donations.
• Ask the local public works department what kinds of electronics are collected on trash/recycling days and what is done with them.
• Call or check the manufacturer's or retailer's Web sites to determine if they'll take used products back for free or for a fee. Dell, for example, will accept old models of their computers for free, and even arrange to pick them up - regardless of whether you're purchasing a new model.
• Extend the life of electronics by purchasing upgraded software or accessories instead of a completely new model.
For more information on safely recycling electronic equipment, visit www.epa.gov/region1/solidwaste/electronic/what-u-can-do.html.
- Deirdre Wilson
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