Residents should recycle and help turn e-waste into a resource

During the holidays, many of us have enjoyed the outdoor lighting and decorations associated with the season. However, at the end of the holidays, we will again be faced with viewing an abundance of no-longer-wanted computers, television sets, and other electronic devices put out to the curb for trash collection. From both environmental and financial positions, this is something we do not want to see. Nor, do we need to.

In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that we generated 1.5 billion pounds of all kinds of electronics waste (e-waste) in 2006. This includes an estimated 44 million computers and televisions. This amount is likely to increase because e-waste is growing at three times the rate of other municipal waste. Although e-waste accounts for only an estimated one to four percent of municipal waste, it may be responsible for as much as 70 percent of the heavy metals in landfills, including 40 percent of all lead.

Certain items are particularly harmful. For instance, CRTbased (cathode ray tube) computer and television monitors contain on average four to eight pounds of lead, a highly toxic heavy metal. Other e-waste elements, such as mercury, cadmium, nickel, zinc, phosphorous, and bromiated flame retardants add to the toxic waste.

The lead waste problem will only be made worse, as older CRT-based televisions and computer monitors are replaced with liquid crystal displays (LCDs). There is also more than 18 pounds of glass in a typical 17-inch monitor or television. Both the lead and glass are recyclable components.

E-waste should not be considered waste. It is a resource. Useful materials such as glass, copper, aluminum, plastic, and other components can often be extracted and reused. Some manufacturers have even referred to e-waste as a valuable source of materials.

As the second highest Allentown Borough budget expense, trash collection costs can only continue to rise. Being a “panhandle community,” our waste hauling costs alone substantially exceed those of Monmouth County’s more eastern communities. The cost of fossil fuels continues to rise, and that cost is certain to be reflected in any future trash collection contract.

Fortunately, the Monmouth County Planning Board (Recycling Section) has established a program to recycle electronic and computer products. The program is open to all Monmouth County residents, small businesses, and institutions. The Web site is http://www.monmouthplanning. com/RecyclingNews/MainRecycl ing.htm (click on the “Computer and Electronics Recycling” link.)

I would like to see the borough establish a program that would make it easy for residents to recycle old electronics equipment, while saving tax dollars at the same time. Until such a program is (hopefully) implemented, please consider stashing these items away or contact the county Planning Board for more information on how to recycle these items.

Wayne Smith

Vice Chair Allentown Environmental