A quarter of a billion of anything is a lot. A quarter of a billion people is the population of the United States, minus California and Texas. Stack a quarter of a billion pennies, and you’d have a tower 236 miles high. And if you put a quarter of a billion pounds on the scale, it would weigh the same as 449 fully loaded Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners.
It just so happens that there’s another thing that weighs a quarter of a billion pounds: All of the TVs, computers and monitors people in Washington have recycled through the E-Cycle Washington program since 2009!
Electronic items contain heavy metals like lead, mercury and cadmium, so they don’t belong in a landfill. Since 2009, E-Cycle Washington has taken in more than 900,000 computers, monitors, laptops, tablet computers, televisions, portable DVD players and e-readers each year – an average of 41.7 million pounds a year.
The Department of Ecology conservatively estimates that the E-Cycle program has kept more than 23 million pounds of lead out of our landfills.
E-Cycle is a great example of product stewardship – the idea that manufacturers need to plan for what happens to their products after they wear out or become obsolete. In Washington, manufacturers pay for the recycling program, which allows consumers to drop off electronic items at 340 locations around the state. To find an E-Cycle drop-off site near you, go to www.ecyclewashington.org.
What happens to your old laptop after you turn it in? Most of the electronics E-Cycle takes in are disassembled for recycling here in Washington. Metals, plastics and glass are separated and sold as commodities to be reused in new products. On average, only 2 percent ends up in a landfill, and that’s mostly the particle board frames from old TV sets.
Please note that not every type of electronic device can be recycled through E-Cycle. You can find a list of products that are accepted at www.ecyclewashington.org. If you’re wondering how to recycle a keyboard, mouse, or printer, go to 1800recycle.wa.gov.
Washington’s second product stewardship program, LightRecycle Washington, begins in January 2015. Fluorescent lights, both the curlicue compact fluorescent bulbs and traditional fluorescent tubes, will be accepted for recycling at no charge at more than 170 locations across the state. Fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, so it’s important to dispose of them properly.
More bright ideas on the way
See www.lightrecyclewa.org for more information about this great recycling opportunity.