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Keep it green at eWaste Disposal Days

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Posted: Monday, October 22, 2012 5:00 am

When computers, televisions or calculators reach the end of their usefulness, the dump is often their final destination. To prevent electronic waste from going straight to landfills, Apple is sponsoring an e-waste recycling drop-off program at three University of Hawai‘i locations on O‘ahu this week.

“I think one of the things that’s special about this [program] is that Apple takes all different kinds of equipment, because sometimes there are larger things like laminating machines that are not always easy to recycle, so they take all sorts of things – large TVs, all that kind of stuff,” said Steven Smith, associate vice president and deputy CIO for Information Technology Services.

Smith, who serves as the eWaste Disposal Days program spokesperson, encourages people to take advantage of this three-day program – particularly Saturday, when individuals, families and communities may drop off any personal-use electronics. Thursday and Friday are reserved for institutions like government branches and schools. 

‘A GROWING PROBLEM’

“E-waste is a growing problem here as we have more devices proliferate. [We] have to be careful about how we throw things away,” Smith said. “A lot of these electronics, if they just go into landfills, if they break down, they can have some things in them that are really caustic or hazardous to the environment.”

Electronic products sitting in landfills can create leachate – contaminated landfill water – which can make its way into water systems and oceans and pose a threat to both public and environmental health, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Wet e-waste also produces methane gas, which is a known contributor to global warming.

The recycling program will give Hawai‘i residents an opportunity to divert e-waste away from these landfills  

RESPONSIBILITY AND GOALS

Apple is one [company] that contributes to the problem of electronic waste because they come out with so many products,” Smith said. 

But he also noted the positive direction Apple is taking with environmental responsibility. “I think that they realize that this [program] is something that they can give back to help take care of this as they come out with new products,” he said.

Larry Wiss, communications officer for ITS at UH Mānoa and manager of the program said that “ … if we recycled one million cell phones, it would reduce greenhouse gasses equal to taking 1,268 cars of the road for a year.” 

Smith stated that the goal for this year’s program, the fourth installment in the past six years, is to generate at least 750,000 pounds of recyclable equipment. “We hope that … if we get at least 750,000 pounds, since we started the program in 2006 … we will have collected five million cumulative pounds,” he said. 

Its ultimate goal, however, is to get e-waste out of circulation and out of landfills, so that new electronics can be used, reused and recycled to prevent future pollution.