An exhibit on E-Waste presented by the MPCA at the 2011 Minnesota State Fair as part of their Eco Experience facility.
In a world increasingly dependent on smartphones and laptops, the issue of responsibly disposing of these electronics is becoming more and more pressing. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) reports that in the last year, Minnesota took in nearly 33 million pounds of electronic waste for recycling, making Minnesota a national leader in collections of e-waste for recycling.
What is electronic waste? E-waste, as it’s called, is what’s created when electronic materials are disposed. This can include cellphones, computers, printers, televisions, digital cameras, etc., and as technology continues to advance and we continue to upgrade our devices, the amount of e-waste we produce continues to rise as well.
Unlike throwing away a piece of paper, however, disposing of electronics can have a huge impact on the environment and on our health; e-waste contains high levels of lead, cadmium, and other chemicals that can pollute the ground and water supply if they aren’t properly disposed of. Electronic waste should always be taken to certified recycling facilities that are trained to manage these hazardous chemicals.
The good news for e-waste in Minnesota is that Minnesotans are doing their part to manage e-waste responsibly. Under the Minnesota Electronics Recycling Act, those collecting electronic waste are required to recycle it, but a set of independent, third-party certifications also exist which are voluntary to e-waste recyclers. These independent certifications, R2 and eStewards, recognize recyclers who manage waste electronics responsibly, including proper management of substances such as a lead and mercury, as well as ensuring the proper recycling of material that will be shipped overseas, a significant concern of the past decade. Of the 33 million pounds of e-waste collected between July 2010 and June 2011, nearly 28.4 million pounds met these independent certifications (under close collaboration with the MPCA), accounting for 86% of all e-waste collected. These collections put Minnesota at the head of the nation when it comes to e-waste processing.
The Minnesota Electronics Recycling Act was implemented in 2007 to create expanded opportunities for the collection and recycling of waste electronics from Minnesota households. The program, which engages manufacturers of electronic devices in their recycling, is ranked as a top collector in the nation. Minnesota’s collection in the last year equates to a factor of 6.2 pounds per capita statewide.
To find electronic waste collectors in Minnesota and help ensure your e-waste is properly disposed of, visit the Minnesota Pollution Control website.