E-Waste: Electronic Paperweight Crisis?

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 12, 2005 | Go to article overview

E-Waste: Electronic Paperweight Crisis?


Byline: Dana Joel Gattuso, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Supposedly, we face a major tech-trash "crisis." Too many Americans, according to a handful of in Congress, use their old home computers and other outmoded electronics as giant paperweights, storing them in attics, garages, and basements and "taking up space in homes and businesses."

The "inappropriate storage of these things is not an option," said Rep. Mike Thompson, California Democrat, at a recent press conference. In the face of this calamity, he and three colleagues announced a new "working group" to educate Congress, apparently in the dark on the dangers of so called "e-waste" stored in homes or buried in landfills.

Mr. Thompson, along with Reps. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, California Republican, Louise Slaughter New York Democrat, and Mary Bono, California Republican, report Congress needs a national solution to address the uncontrollable increase of used electronics. Furthermore, they claim human health and the environment are threatened by "large amounts of documented hazardous materials" contained in e-waste, and that the waste will continue to be a threat until it is recycled.

Unfortunately, our legislators are victims of widespread misinformation spread largely by eco-activist groups who claim electronic waste reflects the ills of a "throwaway" society and that recycling e-waste is our moral obligation to achieve "zero waste tolerance."

One can only hope a working group to study the issue will help these members of Congress get some facts straight. Consider:

* E-waste, including personal computers, TVs, VCRs, DVD players, audio systems, and home office electronics, amounts to only 1 percent of the total U.S. municipal waste stream, according to waste data from the Environmental Protection Agency. Further, it has not increased as a percent of the waste stream but has remained at 1 percent since 1999.

* The number of discarded computers is leveling. According to a study by the National Safety Council, castoffs will max out at 63 million this year before they begin declining. The main reason is used machines consumer hold on to - surprisingly, 75 percent of all outdated computers - increasingly are being reused within the home for young children, donated or given to older relatives. …

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