Electronic waste, or e-waste, recently has attracted scrutiny throughout the United States. Municipalities have grown weary from dealing with unwanted computers and gadgets, the toxins of which can leech into the soil and of course, groundwater. The Environmental Protection Agency has picked up on this concern, and named e-waste as one of its top priorities. More recycling programs have sprouted up across the country, but most send 80% of unwanted electronics abroad to factories where working conditions, and toxin levels, are abysmal.
Silicon Valley-based ECS Refining, in business since 1980, has long addressed the issue of e-waste in California. Now the company, which has been adept at turning trash into treasure, launched Ecollective, a partnership that will start with an operation of 94 e-waste collection points up and down the Golden State. Non-profits, as well as small and medium-sized businesses, are participating in the program through serving as hosted drop-off locations.
ECS Refining’s experience with reprocessing used electronic equipment should help Ecollective’s success in boosting the recycling rates of unused electronics. The company boasts industrial processes that not only divert such materials from landfills, but prevents the mining of even more raw materials, which requires the consumption of more energy and water. The electronics are dismantled at approved sites, and then the separated raw materials are sent to approved downstream processors to be prepared for another round of manufacturing.
Starting this week, consumers can search for locations and learn what products the organization accepts through visiting its new website. The current number of locations is impressive, but more locations would help boost e-waste recycling efforts in this state of 37 million. Ecollective has a partnership with Goodwill in Solano and Contra Costa Counties, for example—if that alliance could grow within the state, recycling would be even easier for consumers who are aware of e-wastes’ dangers, but will not necessarily drive for miles to ditch that outdated laptop. Ecollective’s goal is to have a site within 10 miles of all households in the United States.
ECS Refining and Ecollective are off to a solid start. By gathering manufacturers, retailers, e-waste collectors, and municipalities, both organizations should help build California as a model for a safer disposal of electronic waste. They have an uphill battle: the world generates 40 million tons of e-waste a year, or about 12 pounds a person. Surely we can do better–as our thirst for the latest and greatest electronic gadget will not dissipate any time soon.