Boulder Ewaste - Boulder Rights of Nature

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Written by Drew Searchinger for CU Environmental Center
On September 25th the newest iPhone became available for purchase. According
to Apple, in just three days more than 13 million units of their newest gadget
had been sold around the world. It's highly unlikely that 13 million individuals
needed brand new phones, but the culture of electronics encourages constant
updates: newer is better, and it seems a better option is always right around the
corner. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average phone is
replaced every 18 months, and we don't always think about what happens to
technology once it's out of our hands.
In the United States, we throw out two million to three million tons of electronics
each year. Electronic waste, or e-waste, is the fastest growing component of the
municipal waste stream worldwide, due to the high-speed consumerism that
comes with constantly evolving technology. According to the EPA, televisions and
computers each contain an average of four pounds of lead, as well other toxic
substances such as chromium, mercury, and zinc. When put in landfills, these
toxins leak into the earth and pollute groundwater. Smartphones have a slew of
precious metals in them: gold, silver, platinum, copper, and rare earth metals
such as Yttrium, Lanthanum, Neodymium and more are all present in the pocketsized computers. According to 911 Metallurgist, on average, phones hold from 6-
300 times more precious metal than the equivalent amount of ore from a mine.
And currently, less than 1% of rare earth minerals are recycled.
Tempting as it is to snag the fastest, newest models as soon as they come out,
it's important to use electronics for as long as possible and not jump to replace
them before they're in poor condition. Then, when technology is no longer
useable, recycle it! We're incredibly lucky to live in a place where it's easy to
recycle not only electronics, but all sorts of materials. CU Recycling has formed a
partnership with The Wireless Alliance to reuse and recycle old cell phones. You
can drop off your old phones, chargers, cell phone batteries, and portable music
devices at the UMC and Norlin Library to be recycled. You can also recycle old
batteries on campus at several locations through Environmental Health and
Boulder is home to the first hard-to-recycle facility in the nation!
CHaRM, Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials, has been recycling
everything from light bulbs to yoga mats since 2001. They work with
Electronics Recyclers International who are e-Steward Certified with the Basel
Action Network to assure electronic scrap is safely processed within developed
countries, not shipped abroad where it pollutes the water and land of those who
sort it- which is both a social and environmental injustice. You can use EcoCycle's A to Z Recycling Guide to find out how to recycle, compost, or
reuse just about anything. Be sure to check out CHaRM's Guidelines and
Fees before heading out to the facility, located at 6400 Arapahoe Road.
Make the sustainable choice, and think twice before throwing things away,
especially when it comes to electronics. Even though we can't see the effects of
e-waste once it's out of our site, the pollution that comes from technology is
rapidly impacting the wellbeing of the planet and its people. Do your part to
sustain a safe, healthy and happy earth!