I’m often asked about new real estate technology, but I’m rarely (if ever) asked what to do with the old technology left behind. And if you are technological enthusiast as I am, then you may be upgrading your computer and other electronic devices as often as the seasons change. So, what do you do with your old technology? My kids love adopting my old Blackberries, MP3 players and computers. But eventually even they outgrow these devices…and I’m left with quite a pile of “e-waste”.
What is e-waste?
E-waste is electronic waste that includes computers, mobile phones, entertainment electronics like TVs and VCRs, fax machines, copiers, and any other tech items that have been discarded by their original users.
How does e-waste affect our environment?
The United States generates more e-waste than any other nation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Electronic waste represents 2 percent of America’s trash in landfills, but it equals 70 percent of overall toxic waste. E-waste is of concern largely due to the toxicity and carcinogenicity of some of the substances if processed improperly. Toxic substances in electronic waste may include lead, mercury, and cadmium. Carcinogenic substances in electronic waste may include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These toxic chemicals can leach into the land over time impacting nearby communities and the environment. Incineration of e-waste releases heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury into the air and ashes. Mercury released into the atmosphere can bioaccumulate in the food chain, particularly in fish – the major route of exposure for the general public. And sadly, the exportation of e-waste to poor countries is devastating to say the least. To learn more about e-waste exportation visit Greenpeace and watch this video.
So how can real estate professionals help?
- Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle
Many of these electronic products can be reused, refurbished, or recycled. You can reduce your generation of e-waste through smart procurement and good maintenance. Reuse still functioning electronics by donating or selling them to others that can use them. And recycle electronic items that cannot be repaired. You would be surprised how many local organizations will actually take your electronics for FREE if you just open your phonebook or do a little digging! In California, you can find a local organization that reuses or recycles electronics by searching the Electronic Product Management Directory (EPMD).
- Support Green Technology
Some large companies like Fujitsu have developed technologies to eliminate toxic chemicals by developing lead-free products. Additionally, Sony and Waste Management have partnered recently to launch the “Sony Take Back Recycling Program” to help customers safely recycle all Sony electronics, and even non-Sony products for a market-rate fee. Visit the Sony Electronics Blog to learn more.
- Support E-Waste Legislation
The United States Congress is considering a number of electronic waste bills including the National Computer Recycling Act introduced by Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA). However, this bill has continually stalled. In the meantime, several states have passed their own laws regarding electronic waste management. California was the first state to enact such legislation, followed by Maryland, Maine, Washington and Minnesota. More recently, legislatures in Oregon and Texas passed their own laws.
- Blog About It
If you have a blog you have a great opportunity to inform others. This post was inspired by Blog Action Day! But you don’t have to wait until Earth Day to write about environmental issues facing your community and real ways you can help and improve your local sustainability.