As a student of Columbia College Chicago, I noticed that the recycling bins on campus collect one additional material to what I normally see. Alongside the usual paper, plastic and glass receptacles is a bin for e-waste. All those broken gadgets and electronics we use, at least the small ones, can be recycled easily on campus instead of hauling them out to a recycling plant.
What is e-waste?
Electronic waste is any electronic device — including computers, monitors, cell phones, scanners, fax machines and televisions — that is obsolete, broken or just unwanted. According to the website Rewaste
, the problem with electronic waste is that the products may contain hazardous chemicals such as PCB’s, mercury or lead. If e-waste is disposed of in the regular trash, these toxic materials could potentially contaminate the land and get into our drinking water. Additionally, valuable and reusable metals like gold, tin, copper and aluminum within the products would go to waste. Recycling these resources reduces the need to mine more of these materials.
The Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act to take effect in Illinois will not only make it illegal for citizens to just toss their e-waste, but it will also make it illegal for landfills within the state to accept them.
The Illinois Environmental Protection agency lists requirements of individuals as well as businesses
in regards to disposing of e-waste. The page also gives a list of registered recyclers, collectors, and refurbishers as well as residential e-waste collection sites. If additional questions arise, there is contact information for the office listed on the page.
As described on the Chicago Recycling Coalition website
, the recycling hierarchy states that it better to reduce before your reuse, and to reuse before you recycle. In that case, by resisting the urge to purchase the latest technology you can easily reduce your e-waste output. But if that is not an option, the CRC webpage also lists venues in Chicago, like Goodwill and The Salvation Army, where still-usable electronics can be reused by people who need them. Or, if you have decided that recycling is the best option, you can check the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
website for a downloadable spreadsheet listing drop-off locations in several Illinois cities.
The passage of this act will hopefully promote proper and safe disposal habits from consumers and businesses alike. Besides reducing the amount of waste in landfills, recycling unwanted or broken electronics will protect the soil and water from contamination and can also benefit someone in need of such an item.
So next time you replace your old desktop, get a new cell phone or upgrade to a larger TV, make sure you responsibly recycle your e-waste!