Management of Electronic Wastes Waste Computers

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In the early 1980s, the world witnessed the sale of the first personal computers. Its transition from the relatively bulky and slow first units to the sleek, speed demons has made the computer truly revolutionary. With each improvement in computers, however, comes the increasing problem of what to do with the ever increasing number of computer e-wastes. The U.S. EPA estimates that nearly 250 million computers will become obsolete in the next five years in the United States alone. Unfortunately, only approximately 10% of these old computers that are retired each year are being recycled. This presents a substantial concern because toxic elements such as lead, cadmium, mercury, barium, chromium, beryllium as well as flame retardant, and phosphor are contained in a typical computer and there would be potential harm if there was a release of these elements into the environment.1

The Town of Colonie, County of Albany, New York, USA, has a good management policy. The Town residents can bring their old computers to the Town Solid Waste Management Facility's "Residential Recyclables Drop Off Area" for recycling. The Town collects old computers from residents and packages them to be shipped out to a private recycling firm, SR Recycling, who separate the salvageable components for reuse, remove the special metals/materials that have recyclable value, and dispose of only the remaining waste materials. The Town charges the residents a fee, USD10 per computer system (monitor, CPU, printer, keyboard, mouse, etc. as a set or parts of set) to pay for the recycling of these units. When the Town collects sufficient units to make up a shipment, the vendor is called to collect the computers.1

Through the Town's recycling system, the residents are provided an environmentally and economically sound means of managing the e-wastes. This assures that the materials of concern within these e-wastes are effectively and appropriately managed.

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