Christmas is over. For better or for worse a new year is upon us.
In the year of our Lord 2013, every family in Clay County, Indiana (hey, every family in America) will throw out something electronic:
An out of date CRT or LCD replaced with a new and bigger monitor.
An old desktop computer replaced with a have-to-have fancy laptop.
An old laptop replaced with the latest and greatest version of the same thing.
All those hand-held devices purchased too cheap to worry about fixing.
The un-repairable cell phones not as good as whatever came next.
And, of course, the all those printer cartridges emptied printing Christmas letters.
None of this even includes the electronic "stuff" which inevitably wears out on it own.
All of it must be disposed of just as soon as the closets get too full.
One item tossed out per year per family (a conservative figure) for every family in one county, every county in one State, one State out of 50. All of this trash thrown out without being aware the next great environmental crisis is already here.
In a recent publication the Environmental Protection Agency says this about "e-waste":
"Why Are Used Electronics a Concern? (They) represent a rapidly growing waste stream. Technological advances are rapidly rendering formerly cutting-edge electronics obsolete. An estimated 20 million personal computers became obsolete in 1998. Most of these are in storage. Of the remainder, the bulk were disposed of; probably fewer than 6 percent were recycled. Currently, the useful life of a computer is only 3-5 years and shrinking. In 2005, more than 63 million personal computers are projected to be retired according to a recent study by the National Safety Council."
While some of these electronics can be repaired or remanufactured and reused, for many years the labor costs were too high to justify reclaiming the valuable materials each contain. At Computer Central in Brazil we have always accepted any printer cartridges and computer related components for recycle. We had for ten years been involved in remanufacturing laser cartridges, and prior to Windows 7 could often salvage parts to use on older computers which might be uneconomical to repair. For the first few years, however, we had to charge for accepting monitors and computers simply because we actually had to pay to get rid of it.
In recent years, though, the worth of old stuff has risen with the rising cost of oil (a basic component in plastics) and increased price paid for metals. The result is there are now local businesses which will come to our store and pick up whatever small electronic "e-waste" we can collect. For the sake of full disclosure, we do get a couple bucks for old computers, the rest they just take off our hands. And, no, we cannot accept large items such as refrigerators!
Christmas is over. For better or for worse a New Year is upon us. If you have or will soon have e-waste, don't add to the environmental problem. Drop it off at Computer Central in Brazil.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org