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updated: 1/25/2013 9:54 PM

Naperville North junior to raise electronics recycling awareness

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Chelsea Wang

Chelsea Wang is a junior at Naperville North High School, and wrote this article for an advocacy project about Electronics Recycling. To contact her, please email cwang.freestyler@gmail.com.

From computers to music devices, the U.S. is a global leader in designing and developing new and improved electronic technologies.

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With the advent of all this innovation, however, comes the increasingly difficult challenge of shielding citizens and the environment from the harmful effects of poor recovery and recycling of these products.

The topic of recycling electronics is often an overlooked aspect of current conservation efforts. However, the issue itself is not only very relevant and legitimate, but also in need of being recognized and promoted. Due to the rapid proliferation of technological advancements and the global nature of the distribution of electronics around the world, the issue can officially be considered a global issue.

Electronic Waste can be defined as discarded computers, office electronic equipment, entertainment electronic devices, and of course the familiar machines that power our existence: mobile phones, television sets, and refrigerators. Electronics recycling involves disassembling these devices, and either fixing the device for resale or melting and purifying the metal parts of the original device to be sold on the market in the form of a copper bar, or stick of iron.

In terms of bulk mass, an estimated 50 million tons of electronics waste is produced each year, and according to a report by the United Nations Environmental Program, the amount of e-waste produced could rise by as much as 500 percent over the next decade in some countries, such as India and China where population growth necessitates technology consumption.

Domestically, the US now dumps between 300 million and 400 million electronic items per year, and less than 20 percent of such e-waste is actually successfully recycled, a problem that is exacerbated by the fact that a finite number of landfills cannot possibly accommodate a seemingly endless flow of unwanted devices.

Certain components of some electronic products contain materials that render them extremely hazardous, and may cause serious health and pollution problems. Certain components of household electronics may contain contaminants such as lead, cadmium, beryllium, and brominated flame retardants that can cause memory loss, nervous system impairment, and even death.

It is thus no small surprise that the technological boom of the last decade has coincided with reports of highest-ever levels of water poisoning, the earliest reported cases of childhood cancers associated with toxic substances, and increasingly urgent environmental toxins that are of course, synthetic and man derived.

Some companies and environmental agencies have already instated programs for recycling and reintegrating electronics into their retail programs; among these corporations are Circuit City, Best Buy, and Staples. Specifically, in regards to Cell Phone Recycling, companies who run their own recycling program include Motorola, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile.

In order to effectively combat this problem, you can do your own part by dropping off old, unused, or obsolete electronics at your local community's Electronics Recycling center, and by informing your friends and family of this relatively unknown yet extremely pertinent issue! For more information about specific retailer programs and details about the electronics recycling process, visit the website http://earth911.com/recycling/electronics/proper-disposal-and-recycling-of-e-waste/.

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