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[GreenYes] Houston starts e-recycling program
Enclosed is an article from today's  (October 8) Houston Chronicle which
discusses a new e-waste program in the city.  Although the program is only
a baby step forward, the article does manage to discuss EPR and DfE.

Oct. 8, 2001, 9:53PM

Houston targets high-tech trash

Recycling program to collect old electronics for safe disposal

Copyright 2001 Houston Chronicle

They are hidden in attics, closets and other domestic nooks and crannies in
houses across America. Millions of old computers, monitors, keyboards,
printers -- harmless, outdated relics of technology.

Harmless, that is, until people finally get tired of the clutter and throw
them away. That's when they become part of a growing, and experts say,
potentially enormous environmental problem.

Each computer monitor contains about 4 pounds of lead in the glass and
solder used in the circuitry. Thermostats, sensors, relays,
semi-conductors, batteries, infrared detectors contain mercury, cadmium and
arsenic, all toxic substances.

It is not the individual machine that is of concern to federal and state
regulators, environmentalists and computer manufacturers, though. The
danger lies in the accumulative totals of these substances finding their
way into the waste stream if not disposed of properly.

States and municipalities across the country -- including Houston -- are
slowly beginning to deal with the problem. At least two states have
declared discarded computers hazardous materials, meaning they cannot be
dumped in landfills. The federal government is studying the problem. Cities
are opening collection sites for old electronics.

This week, Houston inaugurated its electronics recycling pilot program at
two city-run collection points. Officials are encouraging residents to drop
off obsolete computers, televisions, cell phones, audio equipment, VCRs and
unwanted electronics at the centers.

The National Safety Council estimates that by 2004 there will be 315
million obsolete computers in the U.S., many of them destined for
landfills, incinerators or for export as hazardous waste. Some estimate
that number will be half a billion or more by 2007. And estimates are that
only one quarter of the obsolete machines have been thrown out.

"The big problem is that people all around the country and all around the
world are figuring out they have all these things in attics and closets and
wherever and they now want to get rid of them," said Ted Smith, the
executive director of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, an activist
organization that has tracked the problem for years. "Most people still
don't realize that these things are toxic."

If, by 2004, there are indeed 315 million obsolete computers in America,
there will be, based on the amount of such substances in the average
computer, 1.2 billion pounds of additional lead in the nation's waste
stream, 2 million pounds of cadmium, 400,000 pounds of mercury, just to
name a few.

The good news, said Smith, is that because the vast majority of old
computers have not yet made it into the country's dumps, there is some time
to develop a strategy for their safe disposal.

For the most part, that strategy involves recycling, even though it is a
labor intensive enterprise offering little financial reward. Houston's
program, which is starting with a mere $30,000, is a perfect example of the
economics of such programs.

The city has contracted with Waste Management to operate its new
residential electronics recycling pilot program. Waste Management will pay
the city 5 cents per pound for all central processing units and cell phones
without batteries it collects. The city, on the other hand, will pay Waste
Management 25 cents per pound for monitors, by far the heaviest component,
and 27 cents a pound for televisions (which also contain lead in the
cathode ray tube).

Ed Chen, deputy director of the recycling division in Houston's Solid Waste
Management Department, said based on the experience of on other
municipalities, the city expects to collect 200 to 300 tons of equipment at
its two collection centers over the next nine months.

"It's not a big program," Chen said. "But if we don't start doing something
to properly dispose of these materials they will eventually end up in
landfills and penetrate the groundwater. Houston gets half of its water
supply from ground water."

The potential problem is an important one for the Houston area in
particular, said Justus Baird, president of the board of the area Citizens'
Environmental Coalition, because computer manufacturers are an integral
part of the economy and they are an essential part of the solution.

"From an environmental standpoint, this should not be a solid waste issue,"
Baird said. "It should be a resources and recovery issue. There need to be
some regulations that cover the manufacturer in terms of what is in the
machines and in terms of taking responsibility for recycling and recovery."

Manufacturers are not blind to the problem and most have recycling programs.

Compaq Financial Services, a subsidiary of Compaq Computers that handles
the manufacturer's corporate leasing and financing operations, and which
owns $3.25 billion worth of computers, runs such a program. Computers that
are returned to the company are stripped down, those parts that can be
re-used are removed and the remainder is sent to a recycler for disposal.

Irv Rothman, chief executive officer of Compaq Financial Services, said in
1999 the company took back 250,000 machines, in 2000 the number rose to
400,000. This year it expects to handle 650,000.

IBM has a similar program, but it also offers consumers a recycling option
for $29.99 at the time of purchase. A company spokesman said the company
recycled more than 120 million pounds of computer equipment in 1999.

Smith, of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, said his organization was
working to get computer manufacturers to adopt a new principle called
Extended Producer Responsibility, which encourages producers to mitigate
the pollution potential of their products at each stage of its life cycle.

That starts, he said, with materials, such as lead-free monitors and solder.

"It makes sense that what you put in at the beginning determines what you
get out at the end," Smith said. "We also have to develop some national
norms and protocols for making these things and there is a lot of
discussion going on at state and federal levels about this."

The Environmental Protection Agency is involved in that debate, said Dave
Bary, a regional spokesman in Dallas, but there are no federal rules that
require "this kind of stuff is disposed of in any other way than in a

Nationally, California and Massachusetts have taken the lead on the issue
with both states declaring old computers hazardous waste to be regulated as
such when discarded.

In Texas, only Houston and a handful of other municipalities have either
started programs to collect the material on an on-going basis or have held
one-day collection events.

Houston residents can dispose of computers and other old electronic
equipment at the city's Environmental Service Center, 11500 South Post Oak,
from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
the second Saturday of the month, and at the Westpark Consumer Recycling
Center, 5900 Westpark, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Proof
of residency is required. The phone number for both locations is

Leslie Byster
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
International Campaign for Responsible Technology

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Ted Smith
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
Campaign for Responsible Technology
760 N. First Street
San Jose, CA 95112
Food for thought:

How Gandhi Defined the Seven Deadly Sins

Wealth without work

Pleasure without conscience

Knowledge without character

Commerce without morality

Science without humanity

Worship without sacrifice

Politics without principle

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