September 13, 2006

Monitor Computers and Techno Trash

With consumer electronics obsolete almost before they're out of the box, most businesses find themselves unwilling to host a section of the office we here at the Indy call "the computer graveyard." Legislator Jon Cooper refers to defunct electronics, like computers, cell phones, iPods, and the like, as "e-waste."

Tossed in a landfill, these technological has-beens pose a hazard, as deadly contaminants like cadmium, lead and mercury leach into the groundwater. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates more than 4.6 million tons of e-waste found its way to American landfills in the year 2000. According to Cooper, the United States is at the top of the trash heap when it comes to generating e-waste. With an average of 6600 computers in use, county government has the potential to be part of the problem when technology is changed out.

Make that had. Last week, the legislature adopted Cooper's measure establishing a purchasing policy regarding equipment. It calls for using vendors who take back computers when they're obsolete and dispose of them safely. Failing that, the policy calls upon the county Department of Public Works to find and use an electronic waste recycler.

Announcing the passage of the policy last week, Cooper noted, "Like technology, we, too, must evolve. Unless we learn to properly dispose of electronic waste, we'll become obsolete as a species."

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