Our growing dependence on electronic equipment (e.g., computers, printers, faxes, VCR’s, cell phones, etc.) has resulted in a growing environmental problem involving the disposal of these items. The EPA estimates that only 13% of personal computers are recycled with the balance being largely disposed as waste. Furthermore, the EPA calculates that over one (1) percent of the municipal waste stream can be attributed to discarded electronic equipment. The amount of electronic equipment reaching landfills continues to grow, as more and more new products enter the market place. A number of hazardous materials, such as lead, mercury, copper, and hexavalent chromium can be found in circuit boards, batteries, and cathode ray tubes. These toxic substances can be released to the environment if improperly handled through incineration ash and emissions, as well as landfill leachate.
The University has been proactive in its attempt to minimize the amount of electronic equipment that may inadvertently be disposed as waste. EHS and the Surplus Office have teamed together to offer University departments with recycling options. Departments are encouraged to wipe hard drives of sensitive data and information prior to transport to Surplus’s facility. Functional computers with wiped hard drives are generally sold to the public and non-working or non-wiped hard drives are destroyed. Electronic equipment that can’t be sold is recycled. Recyclers will use recycle functional microprocessors for use in other electronic devices, whereas monitors are exported to developing countries and re-used. All other electronic equipment is shredded, smelted, and reclaimed for use into new products.