As the Indianapolis Zoo readies for its next Power Recycling Event November 3-4, it reminds us that we need to be thinking about the benefits of all recycling, and in particular recycling e-waste. Recycling is one of the best ways for you to have a positive impact on the world in which we live, and it's easy to do. So why does recycling matter?
Waste has a huge negative impact on the natural environment and on people.
- Harmful chemicals and greenhouse gasses are released from rubbish in landfill sites. Recycling helps to reduce that pollution.
- Habitat destruction and global warming are some the effects caused by deforestation. Recycling reduces the need for raw materials so that rainforests can be preserved.
- Huge amounts of energy are used when making products from raw materials. Recycling requires much less energy and therefore helps to preserve natural resources.
- We are rapidly running out of space for our waste.
- We need to reduce the financial impact on the economy. Making products from raw materials costs much more than if they were made from recycled products.
Recycling also creates jobs. According to the National Recycling Coalition, recycling in the U.S. is a $236 billion a year industry. More than 56,000 recycling and reuse enterprises employ 1.1 million workers nationwide.
In addition to saving energy, saving land space, saving money, creating new jobs, reducing air and water pollution, recycling contributes to preserving habitat for wildlife - a prime concern for the Indianapolis Zoo. When fewer trees are cut down to make virgin materials or to make way for more landfills, wildlife habitat is saved, which translates into fewer threats to the animals that depend on those habitats for survival. Reducing greenhouse emissions helps prevent further global warming, which helps the animals whose habitats are adversely affected by climate change.
So recycling matters, and we need to pursue recyling not just of the materials we normally think of (such as paper, aluminum, plastic, grass clippings, etc.), but also of what is referred to as e-waste. Electronic waste or e-waste is obsolete, broken, or unwanted electronic equipment. Typically, it consists of items such as computers, televisions, DVD players, VCRs, cell phones, video games, MP3 players, microwaves, PDAs, fax machines, and the like.
E-waste is the most rapidly growing segment of the municipal solid waste stream. The statistics are frightening. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an estimated 30 to 40 million PCs will be ready for "end-of-life management" in each of the next few years. About 25 million TVs are taken out of service yearly.
The key is the composition of e-waste. On one hand, e-waste contains toxic and hazardous materials including mercury, lead, cadmium, beryllium, chromium, and chemical flame retardants, which have the potential to leach into our soil and water. On the other hand, electronics contain valuable materials – including copper, gold and aluminum – that can be recycled and used in new products. In fact, according to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey, one metric ton of e-waste from computers contains more gold than that recovered from 17 tons of gold ore. According to aboutmyplanet.com, generally speaking, e-waste consists of more than 92% recoverable and reusable commodities, including steel, copper, aluminum, glass, plastic, silver, gold, palladium, platinum, and iridium. And yet, 80% of e-scrap goes into landfills. That makes it more imperative that e-waste gets recycled sooner rather than later.
The benefits of recycling e-waste are similar to those for recycling all materials. It:
o Conserves natural resources. Recycling recovers valuable materials from old electronics that can be used to make new products. As a result, we save energy, reduce pollution, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save resources by extracting fewer raw materials from the earth.
o Protects your surroundings. Safe recycling of outdated electronics promotes sound management of toxic chemicals such as lead and mercury.
o Helps others. Donating your used electronics benefits your community by passing on ready-to-use or refurbished equipment to those who need it.
o Create Jobs. eCycling creates jobs for professional recyclers and refurbishers and creates new markets for the valuable components that are dismantled.
o Saves landfill space. E-waste is a growing waste stream. By recycling these items, landfill space is conserved.
There are multiple opportunties to recycle e-waste in Indianapolis, including the Indianapolis Zoo's twice-yearly Power Recycling Weekends
. For the two recycling events in 2011, the Zoo collected an atonishing 35,295 lbs. of e-waste and shredded 3,484 lbs. of paper. In spring 2012, the Zoo took in over 19,000 lbs. of e-waste. With everyone's help, we hope to break the record with this fall's event. Take advantage of these opportunities because recycling really does matter.