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e-garbage handling

Updated on November 30, 2010

Old PCs and mobile are just nuisances that converts hazardous waste into the environment 

The garbage of the past decade has little to do with the previous years. In landfills now occupy a leading role televisions, appliances and, more recently, computers and mobile phones. Get rid of this junk properly is fundamental, since e-waste is highly polluting, but also can be recycled and make most of their components. 

Is slowly becoming aware of the need to separate home different types of waste. But in addition to paper, cans, glass and organic waste, the 'electronic waste' occupies a greater volume through the debris of the XXI century. The relatively short lifespan of computers, they begin to be phased out after a year and all four are practically obsolete, generates lots of junk from which the consumer does not know how to discard. PCs, peripherals, televisions, mobile phones and other electronic equipment damaged or outdated are a nuisance that end in a storage room, drawer or thrown anywhere inappropriate. 
Electrical and electronic waste (computers and mobile phones in particular) and represent about 5% of the waste generated in Europe and, according to European Environmental Bureau, added 7.4 million tonnes in 2004, up 4% year. What's worse is that 90% of this material ends up in landfills where it burned, despite the many toxic components used in manufacturing, such as lithium batteries, lead (from solder, CRT monitors and batteries), mercury (fluorescent lamps in LCD monitors), bromine (plastic housings and insulation) and cadmium (printer toners and inks, CRT, NiCd rechargeable batteries, etc..). 

In the case of computers is to assess whether it is more profitable to upgrade its components or give any other uses before disposing of them. It is true that the sophistication of the new programs that come onto the market (especially games) require increased performance to computer until it can not reach it with the frustration of the user who wants a new model soon. But the old computer can be used to perform menial tasks (browsing, word processing, very demanding games, etc.) Or can be removed to build a component (a second hard drive, for example). 

It is also possible to go to organizations that collect and repair the equipment to be allocated to education projects, or sending them to projects in underdeveloped countries. Ultimately, when disposing of e-waste is necessary to place them in an appropriate place (the so-called 'collection points') so that they can still make some profit. 

Much of the materials used in electrical and electronic equipment is recyclable: half is iron and steel, over 20% plastic, 13% other metals (including precious metals) and 5% is glass. It is estimated that if processed 70% of the 200,000 tons of electronic waste (between 100,000 and 160,000 homes) that are produced in Spain a year, could be recovered over 90,000 tonnes of metal, 30,000 tonnes and 13,000 tonnes of plastics glass.

A fitting end 
So far the industrialized countries move to the growing problem of e-waste rather than deal with it. It is true that you will start to recycle from home, but little and badly, but since some European countries and especially since U.S. e-waste exports to Third World countries illegally, according to warnings from environmental agencies.Between 50% and 80% of e-waste collected for recycling in the U.S. travel on a ship bound for China, where in many cases are destroyed without any precaution to sell components that may have some value, while materials pollutants spread by rivers and fields, denounced the report Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia. 

Unlike other industries, where contamination especially in the manufacturing process (and the manufacturer is obliged to take measures and repair damage), in electronics the main pollutant is the final product in use, in the hands of the consumer. It must therefore take responsibility for properly disposing of scrap technology, while it should provide the process management while ensuring that waste receive appropriate end.In this kind of crap you should apply the treatment of the three Rs: Reduce (to maximize the production of waste), Reuse (use them or find another who can give) and Recycle (placed in a clean point.) 


There are several organizations that accept computer equipment and mobile phones to be allocated to social, educational or Third World. Such is the case of Bip Bip Foundation, which collects and repair equipment to donate to projects that request. In the last three years has managed to assemble 220 classrooms with 1,300 computers that have benefited more than 65,000 immigrants, disabled, homeless, elderly, drug addicts and, in general, all kinds of people at risk of social exclusion. 

There are other NGOs or projects aimed at collecting on all computers to assign to third parties or send to developing countries, such as Teso, Reciclanet, active presence, Noves Tecnologies per al'Àfrica or Tedes. 

Many of these nonprofit organizations repair and update old or broken computers, but do not accept anything. Bip Bip, for example, accepts PCs with Pentium II or higher, while lowering the limit Teso Pentium 100 MHz (install Linux or Windows 98 or higher, office tools and Internet) and accepts CD players, cables computer, printers, monitors, keyboards, mice and hard drives of at least 800 MB. The other teams are not useful, recommend Teso, must be deposited in a recycling point. 

Waste collection points 

In the same way that there are bins for paper and glass, in commercial establishments have enabled more than 3,000 containers to collect small size electronic devices (mobile phones, mainly). To manage the larger household waste (appliances, computers, etc.) Or dangerous (batteries, paints, oils, etc.) Have created the so-called Green Points ('Echo Park', 'areas of provision', 'Deixalleria' or 'Garbigune', depending on the area of Spain). 

These facilities are aimed at home users, not businesses, and are free but require the effort of carrying the waste and transport to the closest point, if you know your location. 

There is no body responsible for collecting information (the OCU has grouped its website information of 650 collection points clean communities and municipalities).Responsible for its management is usually the municipality, the Commonwealth or private undertakings which they have designated to be responsible for transporting the waste to a specific treatment center where they receive the proper end: reuse, recycling, energy recovery or disposal safely. 

Mobile waste 

Of the three waste types or lines of technological ... 

Appliances: refrigerators, dishwashers, ovens and stoves. 
Brown Line: TVs, VCRs, stereos, etc. 
Gray Line: computers, peripherals and mobile phones. 
Gray Line Road will soon assume the bulk of emissions technology, thanks to the widespread adoption of PCs in homes and particularly mobile and premature obsolescence. 

In the drawers of many Spanish households accumulate thousands of mobile phones do not work or have been marginalized by the new generations. Life expectancy of a mobile is not enough two years, at which terminals (housings, LCDs, electronic components, etc..) Batteries and accessories (chargers, antennas, handsfree ...) become debris, highly pollutants in some cases (cadmium containing a single battery is enough to contaminate more than 600,000 liters of water) but 90% reusable. 

It is estimated that only four out of ten cells that are in the Spanish market are operational, bringing to 20 million phones from over 50 million sold since the early 90's is just 'pop-up waste. " For recycling, the Spanish Association of Multi-Sector Electronics and Communications (Asimelec) launched in the summer of 2001, a mobile collection campaign (Muncher) in populations over 50,000. Since then, municipalities and private companies (Biotel and The Phone House, for example) facilitate the removal of old mobile phones, from which collected more than 4 million this year. 

Through more than 300 collection points across Spain, 'Tragamovil' leads Indumetal obsolete terminals Recycling, Vizcaya company that recycled 40 tonnes of mobile phones in 2003 (27 tons through Tragamóvil campaign) and in the first four months of 2004 took over another 557,400 kilos of waste electrical and electronic equipment (177,570 kilos in computers, copiers, fax or phone and on monitors 86,353 kilos) of the Basque Country. 

Europe Acts 

Aware of the growing problem of electronic waste, the European Parliament adopted a directive to minimize the disposal of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) as unsorted municipal waste and to encourage the design and production to facilitate dismantling, reuse and recycling of waste. Under the directive, member states no later than August 13, 2005, shall ensure that consumers can return waste free of charge to the dealer and ensure transportation to authorized treatment facilities. 

Manufacturers, in turn, will be obliged to collect WEEE from private households do not come, something that ultimately will fall into the pockets of the buyer with a price increase of between 2% and 9% depending on the employer's sector. In late 2006 should be collected an average of 4 kilograms of WEEE from private households per inhabitant per year, and manufacturers must be able to recover between 50% and 80% of products manufactured. Also beginning in 2006, prohibited the use of lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and other toxic materials in building computers and appliances.


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