While household alkaline batteries and many electronics can legally be sent to the landfill in Moab, increasingly across the United States such items are being banned from landfills due to many of the toxins they can contain. Among these are mercury, cadmium, chromium and lead. Household electronics currently contribute the majority of heavy metals found in US landfills and are the largest source of lead in our landfills.
The benefits of diverting electronics and batteries from the landfill extend beyond lengthening landfill lifespan and protecting local soil and water. Sending these items on to a reputable recycler means that most of the materials they contain can also be reused. When properly handled, electronics are broken down into their component parts (plastics, glass, metals) and these materials can be sent back into the manufacturing process.
Demanufacturing electronics is a labor-intensive and potentially hazardous process that can be abused when electronics are sent overseas and dismantled by workers with inadequate health protections. In these situations, electronic waste is often burned, dumped or treated with chemicals that contaminate the local environment and adversely impact human health. It is estimated that as much as 80% of electronic waste in North America is shipped overseas and disposed of in this manner. Consequently, in August 2010 EPA Chief Administrator Lisa Jackson declared that preventing electronic waste and its irresponsible management was one of the US Environmental Protection Agency's top six global priorities.
To ensure that Moab's batteries and electronics do not meet this fate, in May 2011 nonprofit organizations Canyonlands Community Recycling (CCR) and WabiSabi began partnering to offer the community the opportunity to responsibly recycle these items. The first collection occurred on May 7, 2011 in conjunction with Metech Recycling of Salt Lake City. Metech holds the State of Utah contract for electronics recycling as well as the highest certification currently available in the US to ensure that items are processed within the US according to safe labor and environmental standards. This "e-Stewards" certification guarantees that hazardous items are not shipped overseas and that demanufacturing jobs stay in the US. In addition, Metech is able to send 95% of collected material back into the manufacturing stream.
CCR and WabiSabi have scheduled another ewaste and battery collection for November 19, 2011. Both nonprofits are committed to offering these collections at least twice a year in the future until the Grand County Solid Waste Special Service District begins doing so. (The District has identified providing electronic waste collection as one of its goals in its "5-Year Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan.")
At the biannual electronics drives CCR and WabiSabi can accept almost anything that plugs in (the exception being freon- or coolant-containing items such as refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners and computers such as the Apple G5.) Alkaline batteries are also acceptable (eg Duracell and Energizer AA, AAA, C, D and 9-volt batteries), but organizers are restricting the collection to non-rechargeable batteries, noting that rechargeable ones can be taken to Royce's Electronics at any time.
For more information about these drives, including future dates and associated costs, please contact CCR at 210-4996, email@example.com or www.moabrecycles.org.
For more information about electronic waste, you may want to consult the following sites:
Nonprofit Organizations, Goverment Agencies and Businesses
Basel Action Network
206 First Ave. S., Suite 410, Seattle, WA 98104
tel: 206-652-5555; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A non-profit organization committed to stopping the international trade of toxic waste, while promoting toxic-free, democratic design of consumer products. Founders of the "e-Stewards" electronics recycling certification process and producers of the documentaries "Exporting Harm" and "The Digital Dump," which explore the health and environmental impacts of ewaste exported from North America and Europe to Asia and Africa.
Good basic information about why responsible electronics recycling matters and how it works.
Electronic Waste Stories and Articles in the Media
NPR: Fresh Air with Terry Gross - "After Dump, What Happens to Electronic Waste?"
Dec 21, 2010 - an interview with Basel Action Network Executive Director Jim Puckett
A succinct recent interview offering a good overview of the electronic waste crisis.
Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network
Under their "Investigations" tab, they have links to multiple pieces they have done on e-waste including a 4-part short clip series. Easier than watching these clips separately may be going to the Rocky Mountain PBS show "Colorado State of Mind," which did a December 3, 2010 show on the Investigative News Network's findings; the show is available at: http://video.rmpbs.org/video/1681596285.
CBS' 60 Minutes - "Following the Trail of Toxic E-Waste"
(story originally published Nov 9, 2008; updated Aug 27, 2009)
An investigative piece which follows, among other things, some of the electronics "recycled" by Executive Recycling of Englewood, CO.
Actions you can take to help
Participate in Moab's next responsible electronics recycling collection!
Join CCR, WabiSabi, and Metech Recycling at the WabiSabi Thriftique (411 Locust) on Saturday, November 19, 2011 from 9am-2pm for our next collection event. We can accept almost anything that plugs in (no fridges or air conditioners), as well as non-rechargeable alkaline batteries (eg old Energizer and Duracell AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-volt batteries). (Please note: rechargeable batteries can be taken to Royce's Electronics anytime.) See the flyer at http://www.moabrecycles.com/pdfs/ewaste.pdf for more information, or contact us.
Help promote future collections!
Contact the Solid Waste District, which manages Moab's two landfills and its recycling center, and let them know you would like them to provide regular opportunities for residents to recycle electronic waste responsibly through a certified e-Stewards recycler. The District has expressed a desire to explore providing household hazardous waste and e-waste collection services in their June 2010 "5-Year Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan."
Grand County Solid Waste Special Service District #1
1000 E Sand Flats Rd, Moab, UT 84532
tel: 435-259-3867; email: email@example.com
Influence the design and recovery of electronics!
Write the Consumer Electronics Association and ask that electronics manufacturers selling their products in the US: 1) begin taking electronics back when they no longer work for refurbishing or responsible recycling; 2) commit to reducing and eventually eliminating the toxic components of these electronics; 3) work to create products with a longer lifespan to help curb the growing electronic waste problem.
Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)
1919 S. Eads St., Arlington, VA 22202
tel: 866-858-1555 or 703-907-7600; email: cea@CE.org
In addition to contacting CEA, we encourage you to contact the manufacturers of your favorite electronic devices directly about these issues (eg Apple, IBM, Sony, etc). Some do offer programs in which they will pay for you to mail back your items for recycling. As with any such programs, we urge you ask them what will happen to your items and if a certified e-Stewards recycler will handle them. This helps ensure that your items won't be handled responsibly.