Congress Will Examine Dangers of P.C. Recycling

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The New York Sun

WASHINGTON — It turns out recycling a used computer could be worse for the planet than just throwing it away.

That’s the premise of a congressional hearing today, when congressmen are expected to hear that computers collected through recycling drives are often shipped overseas, where they are stripped for metal, exposing laborers and nearby residents to toxins.

Coinciding with the hearing, the Government Accountability Office will release a report today that is expected to criticize the Environmental Protection Agency’s record of regulating the export of older model computer monitors and televisions, which contain significant amounts of lead from cathode ray tubes.

In China, India, and elsewhere there are local economies built around collecting the lead and other metals from the cathode ray tubes and circuit boards of discarded electronics from American homes, environmental groups say. Cables are burnt for the copper wiring inside.

The waste poses a particular danger to the workers salvaging the equipment.

Many of the electronics end up abroad after they recyclers sell them for export, according to news accounts.

Such export is entirely legal. The only federal environmental regulation on the export of these electronics requirements is that an importing country agrees to receive the cathode ray tubes.

Any recycling program of discarded electronic parts would likely require export of some of the waste. There currently isn’t a smelter that handles circuit boards in America, the national coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, Barbara Kyle said.

In New York City, it’s legal to throw away cathode ray tubes and circuit boards with household trash.

The New York Sun

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