Sanitation Commissioner John J. Doherty last week launched “e-cycleNYC,” a new electronics re-cycling program for multiple-family buildings in New York City. The program is being funded by several major electronics manufacturers.

The department is recruiting buildings with more than 10 units to enroll in the program. It allows residents to easily dispose of their old computers, televisions, air conditioners, and other electronic devices.

New York has the lowest electronics recycling rate in the state, most likely because of the logistical problems and costs of transporting the e-waste. Under e-cycleNYC, enrolled buildings can opt for on-site collection bins, room clean outs or whole building events when the items will be transported from the building by experts.

“Recycling electronic equipment keeps harmful materials out of NYC’s waste stream and the environment,ˮ said Commissioner Doherty.
“While safe to use, electronics often contain lead, mercury, and other hazardous materials and in fact make up the largest and fastest growing component of the hazardous materials entering our waste stream.”

By launching the new electronics recycling program now, the NY Department of Sanitation hopes to have most buildings enrolled before a ban on disposing of electronics in the residential trash takes effect in 2015.

According to nyc.gov, “The goal of e-cycleNYC is to make electronics recycling as easy as possible for NYC residents, many of whom live in apartment buildings and can’t readily transport TVs and other large electronics to drop-off events or retail take-back programs.”

If you are a municipality looking to start a similar program, contact us.

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We ran across this Dilbert cartoon, and of course, being in the computer recycling industry, saved a copy. It got us wondering about what people do with their broken electronics.

First I googled “Broken computers for sale” and found a whole slew of people looking to purchase/take broken computers, and lots of other people with suggestions on where to find them. There are businesses centered around selling “cheap broken laptops for sale”.

They are all over craigslist and freecycle, two sites that we love for their ability to foster computer re-use. We hope that anyone using those sites understands how to erase their hard drive, or remove it completely. That goes for computers, as well as scanners, printers, fax machines, and smart phones.

Why would someone want your broken computer equipment?

Maybe for parts. Or they will repair and donate it. Or they collect the metals and try to recoup some value when they have enough. Or, they want your information left on your hard drive.

It’s the same for businesses that use non-certified recyclers. They aren’t all unscrupulous, but IT managers of any size company are taking a big chance when they use someone who is willing to take it for free, no questions asked. And no paperwork or certifications.

Households should call their town and ask when the electronic collection days are, and ask if they use certified electronic recyclers. If they offer a hard drive shredding service, take it. When AnythingIT shreds hard drives, what’s left is not recognizable as a hard drive, let alone recoverable.

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The New York Times published an article this month about old cell phones and e-waste in general. In it, author Leyla Acaroglu touches on an important topic that often gets swept under the rug. The article mentions that there are a number of places in the world where their main source of income is smelting e-waste imported from the United States. There are entire towns in Africa, India, and China with mountains of U.S. computers waiting for young children, men, and women to break them open and pull the components.

Read the full article HERE

The CBS news show, 60 minutes, did an expose on the export of toxic e-waste and what it means to those nations. The cities that collect this waste have the highest cancer rates in the world. According to the NY Times article, “most scientists agree that exposure poses serious health risks, especially to pregnant women and children. The World Health Organization reports that even a low level of exposure to lead, cadmium and mercury (all of which can be found in old phones) can cause irreversible neurological damage and threaten the development of a child.”

The problem (one of many problems), is that the physical handling of toxic electronic waste is not confined to these impoverished nations. For years, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has used inmates to process e-waste, for a profit. The stance of these companies is one of righteousness; our e-waste stays in this country and puts our prisoners to good use. What is not being said is what are the safety precautions taken to ensure that our prisoners aren’t in contact with cadmium and lead? Are women, and more importantly, pregnant women, processing this equipment?

There are better, more qualified ways to process our e-waste. The Basel Convention, an international treaty that makes it illegal to export or traffic in toxic e-waste, has strict guidelines against the use of prison labor and certifies electronic recyclers, guaranteeing that not only does nothing end up in a landfill, but ensuring that the labor used in the process is safe.

See www.ban.org for certified e-steward recyclers in your area.

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