U celebrates Earth Day by hosting e-waste collection

By Isabella Bravo , Staff Writer

As technology advances, recycling responsibly is becoming more complicated.

“Electronic waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams,” said Debbie Lyons, recycling program manager for Salt Lake City. “We’re replacing our computers and cell phones quickly, and we need to provide recycling for those products.”

Along with city and state departments, the U’s Office of Sustainability, Office of Information Technology and the Environmental Health and Safety Office will offer ethical e-waste recycling collection Wednesday8212;National Earth Day8212;in front of the University Services Building.

“Not all recyclers are responsible,” said Frances Bernards, a pollution prevention specialist for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

Many recycling providers export e-waste to developing countries with lower processing standards for hazardous waste, Bernards said.

“There is a market for those electronics in developing countries,” she said. “Those recyclers are not being responsible to the environment, and it’s a safety issue for the workers.”

Event sponsors expect to collect 40,000 pounds of e-waste, Lyons said.

“People are hanging on to their e-waste because they don’t feel comfortable putting it in the garbage,” she said.

Mercury, a toxin that affects nerve cells, and lead, a soft metal that also affects the neurological system, are two of the most common hazardous materials found in electronics. The old cathode-ray computer monitors can contain between six and 10 pounds of lead, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Some flat panel televisions and computer monitors have fluorescent lamps, which contain mercury, according to the EPA.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs, which the U will not collect on Wednesday, contain trace amounts of mercury and need to be taken to recyclers capable of processing mercury, Bernards said.

“Electronics contain a lot of hazardous materials,” Lyons said. “If landfills handle them improperly, they can get into our environment. Our recycler dismantles the recyclables and has the hazardous materials treated properly.”

Guaranteed Recycling Experts, which holds Utah’s recycling contract, will collect and recycle the e-waste collected Wednesday. GRX guarantees information protection for data-containing devices and holds contracts exclusively with other recyclers that process materials within the United States.

“None of the components that GRX can’t reuse are sent to developing countries,” Bernards said. “They reuse as many of the components as possible, because some of the stuff takes thousands of years to degrade.”

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