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America Recycles Day

America Recycles Day (ARD) is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to encouraging Americans to recycle and buy recycled products. ARD is celebrated November 15. The World Recycling Day celebrated in most countries, though falls on July 8. Hundreds of events are held across the U.S. to raise awareness about the importance of recycling and to encourage Americans to sign personal pledges to recycle and buy recycled products.

Started by the recycling sector organization National Recycling Coalition in 1997, America Recycles Day has been a program of Keep America Beautiful since 2009. It is sponsored by private and public entities, including global aluminum company Novelis, stationery firm Staples, waste firm Waste Management Recycle America, the American Beverage Association and the EPA.

Although America may not enjoy much of a reputation for environmentalism on the global stage, in some US cities recycling levels are much higher than, for example, in the UK.

Recycling by material type:

E-waste

Ninety percent of US e-waste is exported to China and Nigeria.

A policy of “diversion from landfill” has driven legislation in many states requiring higher and higher volumes of electronic waste to be collected and processed separate from the solid waste stream.

In 2001, Arkansas enacted the Arkansas Computer and Electronic Solid Waste Management Act, which requires that state agencies manage and sell surplus computer equipment, establishes a computer and electronics recycling fund, and authorizes the Department of Environmental Quality to regulate and/or ban the disposal of computer and electronic equipment in Arkansas landfills.

California was the first state to legislate around the issue of e-waste. It implemented a broader waste ban, with advance recovery fee funding in 2003. Electronic waste in California may neither be disposed of in a landfill nor be exported overseas.The 2003 Electronic Waste Recycling Act in California introduced an Electronic Waste Recycling Fee on all new monitors and televisions sold to cover the cost of recycling. The fee ranges from six to ten dollars.California went from only a handful of recyclers to over 60 within the state and over 600 collection sites. The amount of the fee depends on the size of the monitor; it was adjusted on July 1, 2005 in order to match the real cost of recycling. Cellphones are “considered hazardous waste” in California; many chemicals in cellphones leach from landfills into the groundwater system.

Colorado legislation requires education programs that address its electronic waste problem.

In 2004, Maine passed Maine Public Law 661, An Act to Protect Public Health and the Environment by Providing for a System of Shared Responsibility for the Safe Collection and Recycling of Electronic Waste. It necessitates that after 2006, computer manufacturers take responsibility for handling and recycling computer monitors, and pay the handling costs as well.

Massachusetts was the first of the United States to make it illegal to dispose of CRTs in landfills in April 2000, most similar to the European disposal bans of the 1990s.

Minnesota enacted a law making vendors responsible for the disposal of their branded electronics.Minnesota legislation also outlaws the dumping of cathode ray tubes in landfills.

A law in the state of Washington took effect on January 1, 2009, requiring manufacturers of electronic goods to pay for recycling, and establishing a statewide network of collection points. The program, called E-Cycle Washington, is managed by the Department of Ecology and the Washington Materials Management & Financing Authority.

On January 28, 2010, Arizona introduced HB 2614, a producer responsibility law modeled on the Oregon law that would have covered computers, laptops and TV monitors for recycling. However, it was withdrawn on January 10, 2010.

As of 2008, 17 states have producer responsibility laws in some form. In all, 35 states have or are considering electronic waste recycling laws.

Tires

The Environmental Protection Agency reports 290 million scrap tires were generated in 2003. Of the 290 million, 45 million of these scrap tires were used to make automotive and truck tire re-treads. With landfills minimizing their acceptance of whole tires and the health and environmental risks of stockpiling tires, many new markets have been created for scrap tires. Growing markets exist for a majority of scrap tires produced every year, being supported by State and Local Government. Tires are also often recycled for use on basketball courts and new shoe products. However material recovered from waste tires, known as “crumb” is generally only a cheap “filler” material and is rarely used in high volumes.

Tires are not desired at landfills, due to their large volumes and 75% void space, which quickly consumes valuable space. As of 2003, 38 states banned whole tires from landfills, 35 allowed shredded tires, 11 banned all tires from landfills, 17 allowed processed tires in mono-fills, and 8 states had no restrictions on scrap tires in landfills.

The United States has decreased the number of waste tires in storage from 700-800 million in 1994, down to 275 million tires in 2004 primarily due to state scrap management programs.

Local government

US state laws and regulations dealing with scrap tires are currently enacted in 48 states. Here are some common features of state programs that deal with scrap tires: source of funding for the program; licensing or registration of scrap tire haulers, processors, and end users; manifests for scrap tire shipments; limitations on who may handle scrap tires; financial assurance requirements for scrap tire handlers; and market development activities. Some state programs are now supported by fees charged to the consumer at purchase or disposal of each tire. These fees, sometimes called “tipping fees”, help to support recycling costs. When the disposal rates charged to consumers are set high, this in turn discourages landfill disposal, a simple solution encouraging more affordable tire recycling programs.

Consumer recycling

Consumer recycling options include donating equipment directly to organizations in need, sending devices directly back to their original manufacturers, or getting components to a convenient recycler or refurbisher.

Donation

Consumer recycling includes a variety of donation options, such as charities which may offer tax benefits. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maintains a list of electronic recycling and donation options for American consumers. The National Cristina Foundation, TechSoup (the Donate Hardware List), the Computer Takeback Campaign,and the National Technology Recycling Project provide resources for recycling. However, local recycling sites that do not process waste products on site, and consumers that throw electronics in the trash, still contribute to electronic waste.

Takeback

Individuals looking for environmentally-friendly ways in which to dispose of electronics can find corporate electronic takeback and recycling programs across the country.  Corporations nationwide have begun to offer low-cost to no-cost recycling, open to the public in most cases, and have opened centers nationally and in some cases internationally. Such programs frequently offer services to take back and recycle electronics, including mobile phones, laptop and desktop computers, digital cameras, and home and auto electronics. Companies such as Staples, Toshiba, and Gateway offer takeback programs that provide monetary incentives for recyclable and/or working technologies. The Manufacturers Recycling Management Co. was founded by Panasonic, Sharp Corporation, and Toshiba to manage electronic waste branded by these manufacturers, including 750 tons of TVs, computers, audio equipment, faxes, and components in its first four months. Office Depot lets customers obtain “tech recycling” boxes for e-waste if not eligible for the EcoNEW tech trade-in program.  Best Buy offers a similar program for products which were purchased at Best Buy.  Exceptions exist in some states, which allow for the trade-in of electronics which were not purchased at Best Buy.

Though helpful to both the environment and its citizens, there are some downsides to such programs. Many corporations offer services for a variety of electronic items, while their recycling centers are few in number. Recycling centers and takeback programs are available in many parts of the country, but the type and amount of equipment to be recycled tends to be limited. Some corporations, like Sony in its Take Back Recycling Program, provide recycling incentives but only accept up to five recycled items per day and only if they are that corporation’s products. Sony also partners with the Waste Management Inc. Recycle America program and offers discounts and tradeup programs.  Costco, which offers free shipping and handling for all recycled pieces of equipment, will only allow Costco club members to participate in their programs.  Crutchfield Electronics offers its own gift cards in exchange for electronic waste, through Consumer Electronics Exchange.Hewlett-Packard has recycled over 750 million pounds of electronic waste globally, including hardware and print cartridges.

Lobbying

Various organizations actively lobby government in order to address electronic waste issues. The major organisations are the Basel Action Network and the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition.

Reuse

Free Geek is a collectively run non-profit organization started in Portland, Oregon. It has two central goals: to reuse or recycle used computer equipment that might otherwise become hazardous waste, and to make computer technology more accessible to those who lack financial means or technical knowledge. Nonprofit Technology Resources in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has a similar mission.

ReCellular, Inc. and GreenCells are organizations that buy and resell used, refurbished or discontinued cell phones, to help reduce electronic waste.

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