By Mr. Kevin Stabinsky (IMCOM)January 9, 2009
FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- Like in-laws at holiday parties, old electronics sitting in landfills can overstay their welcome. To give Mother Nature some reprieve from these pesky guests, the Base Realignment and Closure Environmental Office will hold an electronic waste (e-waste) recycling drive Jan. 12 through Jan. 16, 2009.
"This isn't the first time we have hosted an e-waste turn-in," said Heather Hawkins, environmental specialist. "The Environmental Office has sponsored e-waste turn-in events as part of the Army Earth Day activities in the past."
The need for e-waste recycling has increased dramatically with the growth of electronics in daily life. According to National Safety Council studies, approximately 40 million computers became obsolete in 2007, not including other electronics like video equipment, audio equipment and phones.
Although such waste only accounts for about 2 percent of municipal solid waste, according to the environmental protection agencies, that percentage can have a much larger negative impact on the environment, mainly due to the make up of the machines.
Lead, mercury, cadmium and brominated flame retardants are among the substances found in electronics that negatively impact the environment, according to www.epa.gov.
These substances, though necessary for electronics to function during their home-usage lifespan, can be dangerous if the electronic is improperly managed at the end of its shelf life, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. If simply placed in a landfill, these metals can leach out and contaminate the soil and groundwater.
According to www.earth911.com, e-waste accounts for 70 percent of the overall toxic waste currently found in landfills.
By providing a means to recycle, rather than waste, their obsolete electronics, the BRAC Environmental Office staff is doing its part to be good stewards of the environment, Hawkins said.
Electronics gathered will be palletized and stored on Fort Gillem, Ga. before being taken to an electronic recycling center, Hawkins said.
At the center, electronics are placed in a complex separating apparatus, shredded and fed into a mechanical separator, which is followed by a number of screening and granulating machines to separate the various metals and plastics. These parts are sold to various smelters or plastics recyclers.
"Recyclers recover more than 100 million pounds of materials from electronics each year," Hawkins said. "Recycling electronics helps reduce pollution generated while manufacturing a new product and also reduces the energy used in new product manufacturing."
Alternatively, some charitable organizations accept unwanted usable electronics to allow schools, nonprofit organizations and lower-income families to obtain equipment that they otherwise could not afford, Hawkins said.
The recycling drop off centers, located at Bldg. 334 on Fort McPherson and near Bldg. 209 on Fort Gillem, will accepts television sets, computer monitors, personal computers, cell phones, video cassette recorders and compact disc players. Console television sets cannot be accepted.
For those who cannot drop their recycling off or find their electronics breaking down after the drop-off is over, there are several certified e-waste recyclers in the metro-Atlanta area where people can drop off their electronic waste, Hawkins added.