Waste management of computer parts
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Waste Management of Computer Parts. Boz. What is in computers. Monitors - up to 2-5 pounds of lead in CRTs (~27% of its weight), circuit boards also have a high lead content Flat screens contain mercury in the lighting used to brighten screen (similar to the fluorescent bulbs)

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What is in computers l.jpg
What is in computers

  • Monitors - up to 2-5 pounds of lead in CRTs (~27% of its weight), circuit boards also have a high lead content

  • Flat screens contain mercury in the lighting used to brighten screen (similar to the fluorescent bulbs)

  • Batteries contain Cadmium and Lithium

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Why are these hazardous?

  • Lead – lowering IQ, nervous system damage, slowed growth, high blood pressure

  • Lithium – extremely corrosive and in high enough concentrations can be volatile

  • Cadmium – weakens bones, can cause cancer

  • Mercury – growth defects; impairment of speech, hearing, and walking;

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  • Biggest problem is not just that these elements are in the ground, but also leach into groundwater.

  • There are other sources that contribute other than computer parts in landfills

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  • I believe that while this is a significant problem, there are sufficient guidelines in place which prevent large quantities of computer waste from being thrown away

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What is being done to control waste disposal?

RCRA restrictions: 4 categories


Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators (CESQG) <100kg waste/month

Small Quantity Generators (SQG) between 100 – 1000 kg waste/month

Large Quantity Generators (LQG) >1000kg waste/month

  • Households are exempt from the RCRA disposal standards

  • CESQG organizations are exempt from most of the RCRA disposal standards. Not allowed to dispose of waste in a landfill.

  • SQG are also required to have documentation of proper recycling (including manifesting each disposal)

  • LQG are required to have the same documentation as well as a fee for disposing of so much

  • All penalties are fine based depending on how much waste was disposed of improperly

    In 2000, AT&T was fined $195,000 for allegedly incinerating enough of their hazardous waste to be classified as a SQG instead of a LQG

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Local Measures

  • Roanoke College recycles whatever they can with the old computers by cycling them through other departments

  • If the computers are too old or of no real use they get an outside company to come take the parts away, usually once every 6 months

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Local Measures (contd.)

  • The Roanoke Valley Resource Authority allows computer waste in the regular garbage collection. There are no real plans to change that at the moment.

  • According to Melinda Rector, “  Last summer Roanoke County, Roanoke City, Botetourt County, and the Town of Vinton and the Clean Valley Council sponsored an Electronics Recycling Day for computer related equipment and other electronics.  The event was attended by approximately 300 households in those localities. It is anticipated that we will have another event for this kind of equipment in the future.”

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Recycling Plants

  • These plants take the actual circuit boards and monitors

  • Chop up the circuit boards to separate out the various elements (silicon, copper, nickel, ect.) to be individually processed

  • The metals get melted down and sold to be reused

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  • The EPA has been the largest proponent of increasing the regulations of E-waste

  • They are pushing for more states to ban the disposal of e-waste in landfills. As of 2004 which only California, Massachusetts, and Minnesota have.

  • They give a new proposal every year

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What needs to be changed?

  • The general public needs to be made more aware of this problem. Stores selling computers and electronics should be able to give out information on how to dispose of properly.

  • Restriction penalty fines should be steeper or exact a heavier toll on the company.

  • There need to be either an annual/biannual event where people can drop off their hardware to be taken care of safely or a designated indoor drop point that is cleaned out periodically

Summary l.jpg

There are numerous materials in computers that are hazardous and need to be controlled

The restrictions we have in place seem to be sufficient for the time being, though we could improve on them.

EPA is pushing for a national regulation