Indiana To Reduce, Recycle, Re-Use E-Waste
We’ve all been there. It seems as soon as you buy a computer, television or other electronic gadget, a new-and-improved model is introduced.
Our technology-driven society moves so fast, in fact, sometimes we don’t even get our purchases researched and made, before upgraded models are produced and advertised. Consumers who have experienced this know this isn’t the end of the tough decisions…. Most of us also face the unknown of how to dispose of our outdated electronics.
Hoosiers will discard an estimated 1.2 million computers and televisions each year. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), three billion electronic units will be scrapped this decade alone. The rapid introduction of new and ever-changing electronic products makes the safe, effective disposal of quickly outdated products essential.
Toxic materials like lead and mercury are common in e-waste especially those equipped with cathode ray tubes like older televisions and computer monitors – the kinds we most often discard. What’s worse is that toxic metals are not naturally broken down in the environment and remain toxic indefinitely
These heavy metals and other substances found in electronic products can be harmful to the health of humans and animals alike. Exposure to toxic metals can occur through inhalation or ingestion of soil and food. Some, like chromium, can also be absorbed through the skin. Many serious health problems are associated with exposure to each of these toxic metals.
Risks are increased every day by the number of electronic devices we dispose of and the risks get worse when electronic devices are dumped. Creating a public outreach program to help Americans properly discard their e-waste could make a positive impact on our environment.
A 2005 report from the Environmental Protection Agency said the United States generated 2.63 million tons of e-waste. A startling 87.5 percent of that went into landfills or was burned in incinerators. Only 12.5 percent was recycled.
Clearly, something needed to be done… and absent action on the national level, states like Indiana quietly and cooperatively went about doing it. Indiana state legislators helped fill this leadership gap when they worked in a bipartisan way this year to create more opportunities for Hoosiers to reduce, recycle and re-use e-waste.
House Enrolled Act 1589 requires the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to partner with television and computer manufacturing companies to create an e-waste public awareness and recycling program – at no cost to taxpayers.
What’s more, these efforts come at a good time economically as well as ecologically. Recycling more unwanted electronic material can create green jobs and contribute to economic development across our state. Every 1,000 tons of used electronics creates 15 recycling jobs – compared to only one sanitation job to bury it in a landfill – according to a 2003 report by the Solid Waste Association of North America.
Unwanted electronics also contain valuable materials such as aluminum and copper. Dismantling e-waste and re-using these valuable components can also produce jobs and markets for Hoosier workers and businesses.
SEA 1589 could play a key role in keeping our landfills free of harmful e-waste while producing a greener economy for generations to come.
Sen. David Long (R-Fort Wayne) is President Pro Tem of the Indiana Senate. He serves District 16, which includes portions of Fort Wayne.