Businesses hosting electronics-recycling events
by Carolyn Shapiro, The Virginian-Pilot
24 April 2010 – The electronic inventions of the past 20 years that generally have made our lives easier - computers, smart phones, tiny music players - also have created a big problem: Electronic waste.
Many of these devices contain toxic materials such as mercury and lead - not to mention reams of their owners' personal information - that make them dicey to discard. You can't just drop a laptop into the garbage or recycling bin and walk away.
This weekend, several local businesses are hosting electronic-recycling events or launching e-recycling programs.
Companies that put together such programs should disclose to consumers the recyclers that will collect the waste, their methods of handling hazardous materials and the final destinations of those materials, according to Basel Action Network, a watchdog group that focuses on the trade of toxic waste.
Consumers who want to recycle their electronics properly need to get guarantees that hazardous materials won't be exported to developing countries and that personal information on hard drives and cell phones is secured and destroyed. An estimated 80 percent of the waste that consumers drop off at e-recycling programs is exported to developing countries, which is banned by international law, according to the network.
"The point is, we need to be tracking the toxic materials all the way to their final disposition," said Sarah Westervelt, the network's e-waste project coordinator.
Cox Communications Inc. is hosting an e-recycling event from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at Greenbrier Mall in Chesapeake. Synergy Recycling, which is handling the waste for the cable company, will take all types of electronic items for free, including: computers, servers and monitors; fax and copy machines; televisions and video-recording devices; MP3 players; cell phones; microwave ovens; and calculators.
Water Country USA also is hosting an electronics recycling day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today in the parking lot of the James City County water park. The recycler will take any electronic equipment that plugs into a wall socket or runs on batteries.
Harris Teeter launched an online program this week that allows consumers to donate a variety of electronic items for recycling. On the supermarket chain's website, consumers can download a prepaid shipping label and voucher to send in their device - such as a computer, video game system or flat-screen TV - at no cost. They also can find out whether the device has any estimated resale value, which they can receive as a Harris Teeter gift card or donate to Harris Teeter's educational charity.
Earlier this month, Target Corp. set up stations in its stores nationwide to take many recyclable items, including MP3 players, cell phones and ink cartridges.
Basel Action Network has raised questions about Target's program because the retailer won't identify its recycling company.
Target has declined to release the name of its recycler "for legal and contractual reasons," said Amy Reilly, a spokeswoman for the retailer, based in Minneapolis. The company can assure that all electronic waste is handled in an "environmentally safe and healthy way," she said, adding of Target's customers, "Our guests trust us."
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