E-Waste Consuming Landfills

By Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

It hides in our closets, cabinets, and desk drawers.

When we buy the latest gadgets, the old ones seem to just take up space, or go in the dumpster.

But out-dated TV's, computers, and monitors - also called e-waste - are an environmental hazard and taking up space in the landfills.

Those electronics contain hazardous gases and metals that can stick around in the environment forever.

NewsWest 9 spoke with local organizations and retailers who are trying to clean up the mess here in West Texas.

"Almost 70% of the toxic waste that is in landfills comes from e-waste," Dorreen Richardson, Executive Director of Keep Midland Beautiful, said.

As new phones, computers, and TV's hit the store shelves, the old ones are sentenced to a landfill.

"You're looking at the leads, the mercuries that are coming out of the e-waste being a real issue and going to be more of an issue as we move along in years, because it's the fastest growing segment of landfills than anything else," Richardson said.

And those toxic chemicals aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

"The metals, if not handled properly, can seep into the ground water," Jason Moreau, Sales and Operations Manager, Secure Document Shredding, said. "The atomic half-life of a lot of the metals and alloys will literally sit around in the environment tens of hundreds of our generations have come and gone. Some may last millions of years in the environment."

Secure document shredding came up with a solution.

"We facilitate destruction of hard drive and the mother boards in the computer," Moreau said.

Then they send the parts off to be destroyed, almost down to particle size, where the inert gases are removed.

"A lot of companies when they get to the point where they need to clean out a space or are moving, that's usually when we get called," Moreau said.

The big digital switch next February won't help the situation.

"That is really the big question right now," Richardson said. "We don't know exactly what's going to happen to all of the televisions that are so outdated, that they're not going to be able to make the change when everything goes digital."

20% of those TV's are made up of lead. If they go into a landfill, it can contaminate the water and soil.

"We want to encourage anyone with their electronics, think about what you're going to do with it before you purchase a new one," Richardson said. "When you purchase a new one, think green."

Local retailers, like Best Buy are trying to protect the environment too.  If you buy a new TV or computer, they will dispose or recycle your old one for free. They also recycle cell phones, ink, and batteries.

Not only does it help the environment, but the store donates a portion of the proceeds to the Boys and Girls Club.