Advances in technology continue at a rapid pace, and the life cycles of many electronic products, including computers, personal digital assistants and cell phones, are getting shorter. In addition, the electronic components in these products often contain hazardous substances, such as lead, mercury, beryllium, cadmium and arsenic.
These factors have combined to create a growing stockpile of end-of-life equipment that must be dispose of properly, often by maintenance and engineering departments. Managers at K-12 schools often have closets are full of obsolete computers, says Lynn Rubinstein, executive director of the Northeast Recycling Council, a Vermont-based organization.
Thanks to public concerns and legislation regulating the disposal of so-called e-waste, managers now can tap into a growing network of organizations that specialize in recycling electronic products.
More than 400 companies in the United States recycle electronics, according to the International Association of Electronics Recyclers (IAER). Managers can find a list of IAER members that can help ensure proper handling and disposal of their e-waste at www.iaer.org.
The National Recycling Coalition’s Electronics Recycling Initiative also offers a list of links to several resources from electronic manufacturers and retailers aiming to increase recovery of discarded electronics at www.nrc-recycle.org/resources/electronics/industry.htm.
Later this year, Rubinstein says, a law will take effect that will limit the amount of toxic materials European manufacturers can use in electronic devices.
“It will affect the amount of toxins in products in the U.S. as well, but those things are not going to be seen in the garbage for a few years,” Rubinstein says. “First, you have to buy them. Then you have to throw them out.”
Managers looking for guidance in complying with e-waste recycling legislation and initiatives can check out these web sites: