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New ways to curb old tech waste

Caitlan Reeg Mar 25, 2009
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New ways to curb old tech waste

Caitlan Reeg Mar 25, 2009
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TEXT OF STORY

Renita Jablonski: Speaking of big ticket items, if you have old computers or cell phones gathering dust at home, listen up. Today, a House committee is looking at keeping old technology out of the trash. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Caitlan Carroll has the story.


Caitlan Carroll: Often our old electronics end up in landfills, where toxic chemicals like lead and mercury seep out. The EPA says this kind of trash is growing two to three times faster than any other waste. Largely because no one knows what to do with it.

Valerie Thomas teaches industrial engineering at Georgia Tech. She says industry has done a good job of making technology less toxic. But:

Valerie Thomas: There’s been less progress in making products easier to recycle and there’s been really very little progress in increasing the recycling rates.

Computer recycler Willie Cade says that’s because there are so may different elements in each device, from magnets to metals.

Willie Cade: So we have to figure out a way that we can turn that messy stream of equipment into some really great product.

Experts say in an ideal world, electronics would have bar codes. The devices could be tossed into “smart recycling bins” that would read the codes. That way, recyclers would know which parts to reuse and how.

I’m Caitlan Carroll for Marketplace.

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