Three Minnesota recycling centers to accept electronics

Cara Flora

Sony Electronics Inc. is taking the first step in producer responsibility in a five-year agreement with three Houston-based Waste Management Inc. locations in Minnesota.
Beginning Dec. 16, the recycling centers will accept Sony electronics and computer equipment free of charge from personal consumers.
This is the first agreement of its kind in the United States.
In an October news conference announcing the partnership, Gov. Jesse Ventura expressed his concerns about electronic waste and the need for producers to accept responsibility for the disposal of their products.
“In Minnesota we’re looking for a better way to keep old TVs and computers out of the garbage. We want a partnership with manufacturers, retailers and government working together to establish recycling systems that convert these waste products into new products,” Ventura said.
Garth Hickle, policy analyst for the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance said, “People are excited. This is the first time an electronics manufacturer has offered this service, so that’s really positive.”
Hickle also said Sony saw this as an opportunity to meet some of Minnesota’s goals, as well as keep their own competitive advantage.
Recycling drop-offs will be accepted the third Saturday of each month from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Waste Management sites in Burnsville, Elk River and St. Paul.
These facilities will also accept other brands of electronics for a nominal fee during all business hours.
Computer waste hazards
Because of constantly changing technology, the average life span of a computer could be only two years by 2005, according to a report from Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, a grassroots nonprofit environmental organization in California.
Rather than upgrade existing computer equipment, SVTC indicated that most computer users put their old systems in storage and purchase new ones.
The coalition estimated that by 2004 there will be more than 300 million obsolete computers in the United States; most of these will go to landfills or incinerators, or get exported as hazardous waste.
Electronic waste contributes significantly to heavy metals and halogenated substances already found in the municipal waste dump sites, the report stated.
“Landfills are not supposed to leak,” Hickle said, “but there have been indications of landfills leaking.”
He added that electronic products containing hazardous or toxic materials such as lead and mercury can cause environmental problems if disposed in the trash.
“The electronics manufacturers need to take more responsibility for their products at the end of (the product’s) life,” said Hickle.
University does its part
University Computer Services combats computer refuse by picking up unwanted equipment on the Twin Cities campus and recycling or disposing them free of charge.
Andy Phelan, assistant director of the University’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety, said if the facility receives any unsalvageable computers, they are sent to a smelter that separates and recycles the lead.
Phelan said it might be difficult to come up with an alternative to lead in computer monitors because it is put there as a protection from radiation.
“Designing for easy dismantling would be a good idea. If they could come up with alternatives, that’s good too,” Phelan said. “We’re still raising the consciousness about this.”

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