Got Electronic Junk? The Awful Truth About E-Waste and What You Can Do

According to the EPA, in 2012 Americans generated 3,412 million tons of electronic waste. Of that only 29.2% was actually recycled. The rest was sent to landfills or incinerators. What happens when electronic waste is just thrown away?

If you looked around right now, I bet you could find something electronic within arm’s reach. These pieces of equipment are a normal part of our everyday lives. But what happens to them once we’re done with them?

Electronic waste dump in Agbogbloshie, Ghana. Photo from Pure Earth

According to the EPA, in 2012 Americans generated 3,412 million tons of electronic waste. Of that only 29.2% was actually recycled. The rest was sent to landfills or incinerators. What happens when electronic waste is just thrown away?

Much of this waste is exported to developing countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan, and India, where it is dumped. Men, women, and even children are paid extremely low wages to pull out the valuable materials, exposing them to dangerous chemicals and toxins contained in electronics like lead, mercury, nickel, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These chemicals are released into air, water, and soil when the electronic waste is stripped for valuable materials and incinerated. 

Incineration of waste in Agbogbloshie, Ghana. Photo from Pure Earth

Organizations like Pure Earth (formally the Blacksmith Institute) are working on mechanizing these e-waste dumps to begin recycling instead of incinerating and cleaning up these toxic hot spots.

How can we help combat this problem?

We’ve partnered with Systems Plus Computers and Computer Recycling of Claremont to offer our shoppers Electronic Waste Recycling.  Computer Recycling of Claremont dismantles electronic equipment and recycles these components for re-use through licensed recycling facilities, keeping these items out of landfills and incinerators.  The company also ensures destruction of hard drives so your data is truly protected. This is done using the Garner PD-5. Once a hard drive is processed using the PD-5, it is impossible to use or have data retrieved from it.

Drop off your electronic waste at Computer Recycling of Claremont’s truck, in the parking lot outside of Systems Plus and the Lebanon Co-op Food Store on April 19-22. You can find us at the Centerra Marketplace on Rt. 120 in Lebanon, NH. Please see date, time, and fee information here.

We’ll also be celebrating Earth Day on Saturday, April 22, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Co-op staff will be set up near the e-waste recycling truck highlighting other ways the Co-op is working toward lowering our environmental impact. Learn about the Gimme 5 program, our food diversion program, and take a ride on our smoothie bike! We hope to see you there!

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Emily Rogers

Emily Rogers

Emily Rogers is the Co-op's member education manager. Contact her at erogers at coopfoodstore dot com.