E-Waste Recycling
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E-Waste Recycling

Effective Immediately, Recycling of Electronics will be no fee for Foster City Residents

Since 2001, when the state's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) clarified that cathode ray tubes (CRTs) were hazardous waste when disposed, cities have struggled with the added cost ($15 to $30 per unit) of handling CRT-containing televisions and computer monitors in their local household hazardous waste programs.

However beginning Jan 1, 2005, SB 20-Sher, California's new, pioneering e-waste recycling legislation shifted the cost of collecting and recycling certain electronic devices from local government to consumers through the imposition of a first-in-the nation advance recycling fee. Revenue from this fee is managed by the state, with the Integrated Waste Management Board (IWMB) establishing payment rates to approved collectors and recyclers of specified e-waste.

 

Details of the Electronic Waste Recycling Act

The intent of the legislation is to get unwanted TVs and computers out of home garages and spare bedrooms- and the waste stream, where they can create public health and environmental hazards- and to provide Californians with "free and convenient" opportunities for recycling covered electronic waste (CEW) in the future. As a condition of approval, authorized collectors must establish a cost free opportunity for e-waste recycling.

 

More Information and Help Online

To provide a single point of reference for the public and for participants in the recovery system, the state has partnered with manufacturers, environmental organizations and other government entities (including the League) to create www.eRecycle.org. Information about the law, roles and responsibilities of participants, collection opportunities, and public information tools are easily accessed at this website. 

 

Cell Phone Recycling

The growth of the cell phone market has raised a red flag for environmentalists. In the US, cell phone use has surged from 340,000 subscribers in 1985 to over 175 million today. The average life span of a cell phone is 18 months. It is estimated that 100 million cell phones will become obsolete and discarded each year in the US by 2005 and over 500 million cell phones cell phones will be stockpiled in US homes by 2005. 44,650 cell phones are discarded every day by Californians. Additionally, 62.5 million will be stockpiled in California homes by 2005. Cell phones contain hazardous materials and Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxins (PBTs) such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, and zinc. As the technology of these products advances, obsolete models accumulate and become e-scrap. When these products are disposed of in the municipal solid waste stream and not handled as hazardous waste and recycled, the toxins they contain can leach into the groundwater and air. Research performed by the University of Florida for the US EPA and the California Department of Toxic substances control have found cell phones to contain a significant amount of toxic material to leach when put in landfill conditions, well above the permitted levels. Cell phones are considered universal waste and are banned from disposal in landfills, but are exempted from those rules until 2006. Separating out the toxic substances in these products and disposing of them as hazardous waste is extremely costly.

 

Computer Recycling

Did you know that computers contain hazardous levels of lead as well as other dangerous heavy metals? Electronics contain heavy metals, and Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) found in computer monitors and televisions may contain up to 8 lbs of hazardous lead. But what happens to your computer after you take it for recycling?

There has been a lot of press about how electronics are shipped overseas, where labor is cheap and environmental and safety regulations are weak or non-existent. In extreme cases, electronic discards are left in ditches and generally contaminate and pollute the air and water of developing nations. However, in San Mateo County, an effort has been made to collect the electronics and to ensure that they are dismantled and recycled properly within California. HMR is an international company that turns high-tech "junk" into marketable commodities, extending the life of electronics and keeping them from becoming problems in the landfill. HMR's Sacramento facility handles some of the electronic waste generated in the Bay Area.

The recycling process for CRTs begins on a disassembly line. Workers remove the recyclable plastic or wooden case, metal chassis, yoke, PC board, wire and metal strap from the CRT. These materials are all sorted for individual commodity sales. The resulting CRT is a whole glass tube (impregnated with lead) with an internal metal frame. The CRTs are then loaded onto a conveyor system that leads into the CRT crusher. HMR built the CRT crusher in a transportable shipping container. This self-contained unit allows for easy transportation, total weather protection, dust containment and complete air filtration. The crusher can process 100-150 CRTs per hour, or over 15 tons per day. Once the CRTs enter the crusher, they drop into a rotating hammer mill. The hammers hit the glass, causing the CRT to implode into pieces of glass and metal. A magnet pulls metal from the mix, and a screen is used to sift the glass to produce the desired size. Metals and crushed glass are separately discharged from the bottom of the system into commodity containers for shipment. The lead-contaminated glass is shipped to a primary lead smelter in Missouri. The smelter uses the glass as a fluxing agent in the processing of raw lead ore. The lead from the glass becomes part of their end product, which is then sold to be used in the manufacture of products such as new CRTs, x-ray shielding, bullets and batteries.

HMR sells virtually all materials from electronics to recyclers. Circuit boards are eventually ground up and smelted. The gasses from this process are captured and the resulting metals; lead, tin, gold, and palladium are sold as commodities. Plastics are grouped by and baled by color and sold to plastics recyclers. Steel is sold to a local metal recycler, and wood from older television cabinets is chipped for use as biofuel. With analysts estimating that more than 6,000 computers become obsolete in California every day, the challenge of keeping them out of the landfill continues to grow in magnitude. Fortunately, HMR achieves a nearly 100% diversion rate, utilizing only a small 3-yard bin for landfill-bound trash from their 137,000 square foot facility.

HMR Sacramento opened in March 2002 and has processed over 6.5 million lbs of electronics, the vast majority of which comes from the Bay Area, according to Russ Caswell, General Manager of the facility. All products that arrive in Sacramento are assumed to be obsolete and non-functional, so they are disassembled for recycling. However, some other HMR facilities will evaluate products for marketability. If they are usable, HMR generally remarkets them in the Philippines, where 233 Mhz and faster computers still hold some value (Pentium-3 PCs and newer computers can be remarketed locally). HMR also has processing facilities in the Philippines to demanufacture the truly "ancient" (slower than 233 Mhz) equipment.

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