New camera prompts recycling debate


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Melissa Booth shows off her new digital camera, which will eventually end up as e-waste. <i>Photo by Marcia Booth</i>

For her birthday this year, our daughter, Melissa, received a special gift: a digital camera. 

Enthused about nature photography, Melissa, now 11, is equipped to take pictures of animals, sunsets and sunrises to her heart’s content. Well, that is until the need for the camera to be replaced because a new model just came out and the technology it uses is much better than the one she has.

And that’s the world we are living in, where advances in technology are so fast that it is hard to keep up with the latest. And then, what do we do with the old? 

The fate of the old product may end up being donated or sold, recycled, or put in the trash to be sent to the landfill.

The first option would be the best one as the life of the product gets to be extended while somebody else’s needs are met. That’s a win-win situation.

Recycling is the second best option, but it may be quite tricky. Modern, slim, light-weight products like the Apple iPad and Microsoft Surface use a lot of adhesive and glue and those “are a common hurdle,” as Christina Bonnington from Wired magazine explains. 

“All that glue must be removed before any recyclable material can be melted down. And battery recycling is risky … under the right conditions, a damaged battery can cause a fiery explosion. … Other things that can make a product more challenging to recycle include the number of screws (particularly non-standard screws), the inclusion of hazardous materials like mercury …, large amounts of glass, and plastics. Waterproof and tightly sealed products also are more arduous to deal with,” her report concludes. (Go to wired.com/2014/12/product-design-and-recycling for the full article.)

Despite being a possible pain for recyclers, recycling is still the avenue users should take to dispose of their electronics because they “include a host of environmentally deleterious chemicals like mercury, cadmium, lead, phosphors, arsenic and beryllium,” the Wired article continues. “When they end up in a landfill, these chemicals eventually seep into the ground and into our water supply. Thus, properly disposing of them through programs offered by device manufacturers like Asus, Samsung, [Sony, Panasonic, Dell, LG] or Apple, or retailers like Best Buy or Staples, is paramount.” 

In Brevard County, according to the county website, residents can call Waste Management at 636-6894 or 723-4455 to dispose of computers, laptops, monitors, keyboards and mice, scanners, printers, fax machines, stereos, radios, VCRs and televisions through the residential curbside pickup of household electronics service. 

It is becoming more important for manufacturers to create products that are easy to recycle — and use as much recycled materials as possible — and for consumers to demand those kinds of products so less electronic waste (e-waste) is sent to the landfills.

Despite recycling efforts, e-waste still represents 2 percent of America’s trash in landfills, reports DoSomething on its list of 11 e-waste facts, and “only 12.5 percent of e-waste is currently recycled.” That is something to be concerned about as solutions are sought.

One of the solutions is to constantly remind others that recycling electronics is the option to choose. 

Manatee Elementary, a 2015 U.S. Dept. of Education Green Ribbon School, plans to do just that as part of its “Be Earth’s Valentine” celebration. From February 8 through 12, the school will collect e-waste to recycle through its Terracycle recycling program while students participate in an interactive activity that stresses the reasons for recycling e-waste. 

Melissa will be there and, as if by chance, she may start appreciating her camera more — and for longer. 

Email Marcia Booth at Marcia@3RsAndBeyond.org.