America Recycles Day is Nov. 15. While recycling is increasing across the United States for many materials, there is so much more that can be done. Many consumer packaging items can be diverted from the landfill to conserve important resources.
As of 2013, less than 50 percent of papers, aluminum/steel cans, glass and plastics are recycled in the Valley. Luke Air Force Base recycles close to 70 percent of its waste stream.
Everyone can do their part at work and at home and recycle the following: cardboard, paper products, food boxes, mail, beverage cans, food cans, glass bottles, jars (glass and plastic), jugs, and plastic bottles and caps.
Other materials that are hitting landfill space are presenting a huge problem: E-Wastes of all types.
According to the EPA, about 60 percent of discarded electronics end up in the trash. While many states are passing laws to prevent e-waste from going into landfills and incinerators, it’s still legal to dispose of electronics in Arizona.
This is problematic because the hazardous chemicals in them could leach out of landfills into groundwater and streams. Burning the plastics in electronics can emit dioxins. Approximately 1.87 million tons of e-waste generated in the U.S. went into landfills and incinerators (60 percent) and only 1.27 million tons (40 percent) were recovered for recycling.
Although recycled, a significant amount of that 40 percent was exported, which has shown that it is simply landfilled in other countries. Exported waste is often sent to third-world countries, to be recycled using dangerous practices that harm workers, and pollute air and drinking water.
With the proliferation of electronics and the short lifecycle, generation rates of E-waste are on the rise. Many of the electronics are sophisticated and contain heavy metals that are poison to landfills.
These pollutants can lead to ground water and air pollution and soil acidification. High and prolonged exposure to these chemicals/ pollutants emitted during unsafe e-waste recycling leads to damage of nervous systems, blood systems, kidneys and brain development, respiratory disorders, skin disorders, bronchitis, lung cancer, heart, liver, and spleen damage.
Currently, E-waste accounts for approximately 40 percent of the lead and 70 percent of heavy metals found in landfills.
Following these simple guidelines will make a huge difference.
1. Don’t throw old electronics in the trash
Don’t put old electronic products or batteries in the trash (even if it’s legal in the state). The toxics inside these products don’t belong in the landfill.
2. Find a responsible e-Steward recycler.
If your product is too old or too broken to donate, it should be recycled. Recyclers that maintain an E-Stewards certification ensure proper management of all materials and certified destruction of data, but also refurbish.
Many recyclers simply export old products, dumping them on developing nations.
3. Try the manufacturers’ free recycling programs
If there is no e-Steward nearby, use the manufacturer’s take-back program, although many don’t provide much disclosure about responsible recycling. Many of the electronics companies have voluntary take-back programs, where they will recycle old products for free. Some offer trade-in value or money back for returned products.
4. Still can’t find a convenient location? Try these retailers:
a. Staples back many electronics products for free recycling, thanks to their partnership with HP. They don’t take TVs or stereo equipment. One customer can drop off a maximum of six products per day. Staples works with an e-Steward recycler.
b. Best Buy takes back electronics at every Best Buy store, including TVs (up to 32 inches). This does not include household appliances.
Many cities are including e-waste collections during household hazardous waste collection events. Visit your city’s website for the next public collection event.
Luke will be hosting an e-waste collection event at the Luke Base Exchange 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Nov. 13. We have partnered with a local e-Stewards recycler to collect any consumer electronic items in need of disposing. The event is free and open to all personnel and retirees.