Check out all this cool e-waste news from the most recent PennFuture newsletter:
Podcast of the Week: Your computer’s dead. Now what?
In this week’s podcast, PennFuture’s western Pennsylvania Outreach Coordinator Joylette Portlock takes you on an audio tour of eLoop LLC, an ethical electronics recycling firm in Plum Borough, just outside of Pittsburgh. You’ll hear Ned Eldridge, eLoop’s president and CEO; Penny Holden, vice president of sales; and Jimmi Burns, director of operations, describe the recycling process step-by-step. You’ll learn exactly how our electronic waste the fastest growing waste stream in the world should be disposed of. Turns out our televisions, computers, cell phones, PDAs, printers, etc., are full of toxic chemicals that must be disposed of as hazardous waste, and precious metals and other valuable components that can be reused.
Unfortunately, there is no law in Pennsylvania banning all this electronic waste from our landfills. But that could change. Two e-recycling bills currently before the Pennsylvania General Assembly – HB 708 and SB 816. These bills will require manufacturers of electronics to take back their old products and arrange for them to be responsibly recycled. HB 708 has been approved by the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and could be scheduled for a vote by the full House soon. SB 816 is currently before the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
In late June, PennFuture, eLoopLLC, and the Pennsylvania Resources Council held a special electronics recycling event as part of the Black and Gold City Goes Green Campaign. With just a few days notice, more than 350 Pittsburghers brought their old electronics to Heinz Field and paid to recycle three truckloads – about 20 tons – of old televisions, computers and more. The effort kept between six and seven tons of lead out of landfills.
Here’s an interesting e-waste article from the New York Times. This one focuses mostly on the confusing patchwork of state laws regarding e-waste. Exactly whose responsibility is it? State governments? The federal government? Electronics manufacturers? Electronics consumers?
From the article:
The E.P.A. estimates that 2.6 million tons of electronic waste were dropped into landfills in 2007, the most recent year for which data is available. Once buried, the waste leaches poisons and heavy metals into soil and groundwater.
Recycling programs do not address the problem of electronics that are already leaching poison in landfills. Nor do they prevent the frequent shipment of plastic shells covered with chemical flame retardants overseas to poor and developing nations; once there, they are often incinerated, because they cannot be reused, and spew toxic chemicals into the air.
The Office of the Inspector General at the Justice Department has a continuing investigation into accusations that several federal prisons with electronics recycling contracts had used inmates to do the work without taking adequate safety precautions, exposing them to unhealthy levels of airborne particles.
Ultimately, said Ms. Kyle, coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, recycling does not eliminate the root problem: the vast amount of electronics generated in the first place and fated for disposal.
Read the whole article here.
We just came across this really interesting article from the Boston Globe.
Last February, the town of Shapleigh, Maine, population 2,326, passed an unusual ordinance. Like nearby towns, Shapleigh sought to protect its aquifers from the Nestle Corporation, which draws heavily on the region for its Poland Spring bottled water. Some Maine towns had acquiesced, others had protested, and one was locked in a protracted legal battle.
Shapleigh tried something new – a move at once humble in its method and audacious in its ambition. At a town meeting, residents voted, 114-66, to endow all of the town’s natural assets with legal rights: “Natural communities and ecosystems possess inalienable and fundamental rights to exist, flourish and naturally evolve within the Town of Shapleigh.” It further decreed that any town resident had “standing” to seek relief for damages caused to nature – permitting, for example, a lawsuit on behalf of a stream.
Read the whole article here.
Here’s a message we received from Heather Sage, Vice President of Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, regarding upcoming legislation:
Don’t let coal companies trash our streams
We need your help. Our streams are at risk from the coal industry again.
Ask your state representative to oppose House Bill 1847 and your senator to oppose Senate Bill 1034 . These two dirty water bills would allow coal companies to bury streams with waste from mining.
Pennsylvania’s highest water quality classification for rivers and streams is Exceptional Value (EV). Only 2 percent of all stream miles in Pennsylvania are clean enough for this classification, which gives them extra legal protection against pollutants and harmful alterations.
One of the current protections is a ban against dumping coal waste in watersheds designated as EV.
But these two bills, now working their way through the legislature, would remove this prohibition, and allow EV waters that are adjacent to coal refuse disposal sites to be filled with coal refuse obliterating the EV streams and eliminating their critical ecological functions. Even worse, the legislation would actually do this by labeling these sites as “preferred,” which would actually encourage coal companies to ruin these previously unspoiled waterways.
Take action now. We need your help to stop this legislation. Contact your state legislators now to urge them to vote against House Bill 1847 and Senate Bill 1034 to protect Pennsylvania’s most treasured rivers and streams.
Thanks for your support. Together, we can make a difference! Sincerely, Heather Sage
Our friend Khiet Luong from the Darby-Cobbs Watershed Partnership sent usa philly.com article from a few weeks ago. It’s all about Teens Go Green, an awesome new initiative from the Urban Tree Connection, Foundations, Inc. and MLK High School. This program has dual purposes: neighborhood teenagers learn new skills in the landscaping business and beautify the neighborhood in the process. (Another bonus, not mentioned in the article: all those new plants in the ground really help with stormwater management!)
While Philadelphia is still struggling with the issue of plastic bags, the Australian town of Bundanoon recently took the bold environmental stance of banning the sale of bottled water(article no longer available). The most interesting tidbit from the article:
The measure will not impose penalties on those who don’t comply when it goes into effect in September. Still, all the business owners voluntarily agreed to follow it, recognizing the financial and environmental drawbacks of bottled water.
Pretty cool, Bundanoon!
While we deal with the issue of having too much stormwater here in Pennsylvania, other parts of the country are struggling with having too little.
Kirk Johnson’s article in today’s New York Times, “It’s Now Legal to Catch a Raindrop in Colorado,” explains that due to (often antiquated) ownership laws, it is illegal to harvest rainwater in many Western states.
Now, thanks to two new Colorado laws, residents with private wells will be allowed to begin rainwater harvesting, and a pilot program will be installed for larger scale rain-catching.
The article explains the jumble of complicated laws regarding rainwater out West:
Just 75 miles west of here, in Utah, collecting rainwater from the roof is still illegal unless the roof owner also owns water rights on the ground; the same rigid rules, with a few local exceptions, also apply in Washington State. Meanwhile, 20 miles south of here, in New Mexico, rainwater catchment, as the collecting is called, is mandatory for new dwellings in some places like Santa Fe.
And in Arizona, cities like Tucson are pioneering the practices of big-city rain capture. “All you need for a water harvesting system is rain, and a place to put it,” Tucson Water says on its Web site.
Here in Colorado, the old law created a kind of wink-and-nod shadow economy. Rain equipment could be legally sold, but retailers said they knew better than to ask what the buyer intended to do with the product.
“It’s like being able to sell things like smoking paraphernalia even though smoking pot is illegal,” said Laurie E. Dickson, who for years sold barrel-and-hose systems from a shop in downtown Durango.
What a strange situation. Congratulations to Colorado for taking the first steps towards remedying it. They’re off to a good start!
I’m a little late in posting this, as June is about to be officially over, but I wanted to make sure to note that June’s Grid (Philly’s awesome, free sustainability magazine) has two really interesting stormwater-related articles. One is a profile of Alden Zove’s Cedar Run Landscapes, which has a created a sophisticated rainwater-harvesting landscaping system. (You can find this article on page 8.)
Another interesting article (on page 18) features the Globe Dye Works, right here in the TTF watershed. Neither of us had heard of this cool project from the Globe Development Group, which uses sustainable construction techniques —including stormwater management— to convert old warehouses and factories in Frankford.
Be sure to check out these articles — and the rest of Grid magazine!
FRONTLINE/World had a great special on electronics recycling the other night. It describes the terrifying world of the global e-waste trade and traces what happens to American electronics once they are shipped to developing countries where people — including young children — incinerate them and rummage through them for parts. The program’s website has some great resources as well, including an interactive map on the global e-waste trade and guidance on e-waste laws and ethical recycling options. E-waste is a huge threat to our waterways but unfortunately, most people aren’t even aware its hazards and the importance of recycling electronics as ethically as possible.
The Community Action Agency of Delaware County (CAADC), in partnership with the Planning Department, Conservation District, and American Rivers, is looking for volunteers to assist with their Rain Barrel Work Camp (July 27-31). These volunteers would be helping to install rain barrels for homeowners. Rain barrel construction training for all volunteers will occur on Wednesday, July 15, 10am – 12pm, location to be determined.
For more information, see the Work Camp brochure [.pdf] and the Call for Volunteers brochure [.pdf] or contact Deborah M. Lamborn, Senior Manager – Development, CAADC, Inc.: 610.891.6326 or