Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cause For Concern: Rising Rates Of E-Waste

Electronic waste or e-waste isn’t like municipal solid waste or industrial waste. It’s categorized all on it’s own and consists of discarded (most of the time into landfills) electronic materials including computers, TV’s, cell phones, printers, copiers, mice, get the picture! Basically it's any unwanted item that runs off of a power cord or batteries.
 According to the EPA, electronic waste makes up nearly 70% of heavy metals found within landfills (how awful is that? Especially since almost all metals are resources that can be reused)! These items contain toxic substances that can have devastating effects on all forms of life and despite the harmful effects associated with it, the rates of e-waste are increasing drastically. 

It’s no surprise that the electronics business is a trillion dollar industry, generating billions of dollars a year from consumer electronics. 300 million computers and over 1 billion cell phones are put into production each year and that number is expected to rise. From laptops and television sets in our homes, to music players in our ears and smart phones and video games in our hands, technology has deemed itself an integral part of America’s lifestyles.
Perpetual updates and advances in technology have caused the rate of obsolescence to grow to higher rates than ever seen before. These rates are continually rising because like many other things in this world, consumer electronics have been marketed by big companies as ‘disposable’ to make room for newer technologies. 
Customers would much rather throw out their broken items and replace them, rather than recycling or getting them repaired (understandable since the costs to repair generally exceed the costs to replace...hmm why is that?!). The TRUE costs of our disposable attitudes are only recognized by some, but soon enough everyone will begin to understand, hopefully before it’s too late! Companies’ desires for higher profits is leading to dangerous increases in the quantities of electronic waste being produced and the impacts can be seen and felt all over the globe, from our oceans to our atmosphere and everywhere in between. 

Yes! According to the Environmental Protection Agency, e-waste is the fastest growing source of waste in North America, with hundreds of millions of tons generated each year. Americans produce more than 50 million tons a year, with estimates of recycling rates at a mere 20%-25%, leaving 75% to be discarded in landfills. Even worse, it’s estimated that more than half of these materials that are disposed of are in good working order, consumers just discard them to make room for the latest technology. While these rates continue to grow, recycling rates continue to fall, which is the exact opposite of what should be occurring! Since 90%-95% of the components found within most electronics can be recycled and the benefits of recycling far outweigh the costs, these rates should (and NEED) to be much higher!

Well, you're about to be and I'm going to explain why! Electronic waste contains all kind of toxic substances including cadmium, lead, beryllium, arsenic, hexavalent chromium, mercury, barium, brominated flame retardants, phthalates, plastics and precious metals, all of which can cause serious harm to the environment and the living things that surround it. 
These chemicals and materials are not only toxic and incapable of biodegrading, they can also easily leach out of the lining of the landfill and contaminate surrounding air, soil and groundwater supplies (which ultimately affects our crops, grasses, plants and trees).
By not recycling your old or unwanted electrical devices and instead tossing them into a landfill, you’re basically asking for polluted water and soil! This pollution poses threats to the environment and its inhabitants, and is capable of causing endocrine disruptions, reproductive disorders, cancer and eventually death in living things that come in contact with it.
Besides the threat of pollution that’s associated with e-waste, there’s valuable resources and energy being wasted as well. Electronics are full of precious materials that can easily be recycled for reuse, which would in turn conserve energy. If they’re lying in a capped landfill hundreds of feet beneath the ground, how are we going to make use of them again?! The answer is, WE'RE NOT!
Instead, we're going to waste tremendous amounts of energy and resources to search for more raw materials. We’ll further disrupt the environment by mining for new metals; We'll delve deeper into our precious petroleum reserves to make more plastics and we’ll have no problem emitting more CO2 emissions and helping accelerate global warming! I mean this process has worked just fine in the past, so why not continue right? WRONG.. SO WRONG! If we can avoid all this damage to the environment by simply increasing our recycling efforts on a wider scale, then why aren’t we? (I don’t know about anyone else reading, but this really makes my blood boil!)

In addition to the reasons mentioned above, recycling is important for a number of other reasons. Since more items would be avoiding landfills, it reduces the need for landfill space and incinerators. From an economic point of view, it increases manufacturing needs, which in turn creates more jobs for US workers. Using recycled materials helps keep energy and production costs low. From an environmental view, recycling diminishes greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming and saves on energy usage. It conserves natural resources like wood, minerals and water and decreases the need for raw materials. Recycling helps to sustain the environment for future generations while creating an overall healthier habitat with less incidence of illnesses associated with the disposal of toxic materials.


You should visit your local recycling center and determine which items are and aren’t accepted. Once you’ve established what items you’re going to recycle, it’s best to designate and label individual bins for each material. Personally, I think just about everything can and should be recycled in some way or another, but it’s going to be a few more years for society to begin to think like me! 
Fortunately, household recycling is nothing new and there’s quite a few items that have a pretty good recycle rate. Some of the common household items that you can (and should) recycle include plastics, glass, cardboard, newsprint and other paper products, aluminum, steel and even food scraps yard trimmings. 
Recycling allows used materials to be made into other goods with less energy use. Some of the types of items that are created from recyclables include egg cartons, packaging, building insulation and writing paper, all of which are made from recycled newsprint. Aluminum and steel food cans can be recycled to make new cans, siding for houses, construction beams, appliances and automotive parts. Lawn furniture and planting materials can be made from used plastic jugs and containers and recycled glass can be turned into paving materials, new glassware or decorative tiling. 
Recycling is not limited to the items mentioned above, even components of electronics contain various materials that can be easily recycled. For example, computers are 99% recyclable, from the outer plastic right down to the circuit boards!
         The polypropylene plastic can be recycled to make textiles and packaging; the metals located within the circuit boards like copper and aluminum can be re-smelted and re-manufactured and the precious gold, silver and palladium can all be recovered for reuse; even the lead found within the CRT glass can be extracted and re-smelted for use in other lead products.
Improving your recycling efforts at home is a great place to start, but there’s a lot more efforts you can be making to have a stronger impact. While recycling is a large part of the market, buying recycled products is what “closes the loop” and creates the market demand for recycled products. This ensures that the materials we recycle are actually put to use! There’s close to 5,000 products that can be constructed from recycled materials, so it’s extremely important to look for the recycle symbol or some type of indication that what you’re purchasing is actually made from post consumer recycled content (the higher the percentage, the better).
Some of the items to look out for are recycled cardboard packaging used in cereals, snack foods, cake mixes, frozen dinners and dry pet foods. Plastics used for liquid laundry detergent bottles, soaps, shampoos and household cleaners are also great recycled items to purchase. Recycled paper products such as napkins, toilet paper, paper plates and cups and facial tissues are always easy to identify and are considered to be ‘sustainable' purchases. 

I’m in no way trying to sit here and preach all my beliefs on you all! If anything I just want to make everyone aware of the areas of concern around electronic waste and recycling in general. If you take anything out of this post, I’d hope you’d at least realize that there are ramifications for your actions; some may be positive (in the case of shopping responsibly and doing your part to recycle) and others may have devastating effects on the planet it’s natural systems (i.e. environmental degradation, pollution, declining biodiversity etc.) It’s your choice, but the fate of this e-waste epidemic (and our planet) is in your hands! I hope you choose to do the right thing...

 I'll be taking a closer look at how e-waste is handled over seas and the effect it's having on the quality of life in developing countries.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What's The Deal With All This Styrofoam?!

Good afternoon all! I decided to make this weeks post a public vent session to share with you all. It’s my longest post yet, but I encourage you to keep reading and feel free to post your comments. Some interactive dialogue would be warmly welcomed :)


On my way to work this morning, while sitting in the drive thru line of Dunkin Donuts, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of waste Dunkins generates on a daily basis. It’s disturbing since most of it doesn’t biodegrade! I was concerned with the amount produced from just the drive thru of that particular location, never mind the millions of other branches that are out there.
Just about every customer in front of me purchased a drink and some type of food item. All food is packaged in some sort of plastic or paper container and every drink is served in either plastic or styrofoam, both of which DO NOT break down in the landfills they will most likely end up in. (I suppose you could argue with that statement if you count the couple thousand years it takes for them to decompose!...) If "America Runs on Dunkin" then maybe it's time they rethink packaging options. (Is anyone with me on this?)

Me, personally, I went to school for environmental science so I am all about recycling. I try to recycle as much as possible, even those leftover styrofoam and plastic coffee containers, but I guarantee 75%-85% of you out there don't think twice about throwing  into the closest trash. It tends to be the more convenient thing to do, so why not right? WRONG! Do you ever take a second to think about how much waste is being added to the waste stream by you alone? This amount varies by person and season, but whichever way you spin it, it’s excessive. The temperatures are starting to rise, so don’t try and pretend you won’t be paying the extra dollar for that styrofoam hot cups to insulate your iced coffees! It’s not only unnecessary, but extremely wasteful and it really gets on my nerves and you're about to find out why!

Expanded polystyrene or EPS, better known as styrofoam is petroleum based (can anyone say increased dependence on foreign oil reserves!) and contains styrene, a toxin that has been recognized as a carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Although this toxic substance is a great insulator, it spends a hell of alot more time in a landfill then it does insulating your beverage! It’s lightweight, consisting of 99% air, but it’s bulky and takes up large quantities of needed space in landfills. Since it’s used in such a wide variety of things including the obvious items like food and drink containers, packaging and building materials and even things you wouldn't think about like weapons of mass destruction, it’s hard to imagine it will be disappearing anytime soon, especially since on average, it tends to be cheaper to produce than it is to recycle. (Ummm, what’s up with that?!)

Besides the fact that is doesn't readily breakdown, styrofoam can contaminate food and drinks by leaching into warm food and drinks, alcohol, and other acidic foods, which poses a serious health risk to people. Humans aren’t the only ones harmed by EPS though. Since it is created by using a highly flammable chemical, Benzene which produces massive quantities of widespread air pollution when produced or burned, our ecosystems and wildlife are also negatively affected. 

Styrofoam is polluting air, land and waterways all over the country and filling up landfills faster than necessary. Although it never fully decomposes, interaction with light causes it to photodegrade and break into tiny little pieces that wildlife often mistake for food creating a blockage in their digestive tracts and resulting in a slow painful death by starvation. 

Think of how many animals could be saved from a universal ban on EPS! Obviously light is visible above land, but how much light do you think is reaching the thickly lined and capped landfills?


 Many recycling programs aren’t willing to accept styrofoam because it takes up so much space and there isn’t a large enough market for it. Understandable I guess, but it’s incredibly unfortunate that our planet is being disrupted due to this. It seems like a problem with a solution right? We know the issues associated with this toxic material and we are aware that the technology to properly recycle it is available, so why is it that only a handful of states have caught onto this and actively fought to have legislators enact restrictions and violations for use? (I’m having a hard time understanding why, can anyone offer some insight?) EPS foam packaging is being recycled at minimal amounts in our country. It’s estimated that about 10%-12% is recycled annually, leaving approximately 90% of the styrofoam produced to be improperly discarded.

In 1990, polystyrene foam containers were banned in restaurants, grocery stores and other retail vendors. While this ban was necessary and has been pretty effective, more still needs to be done. Some states that have been successful in rallying for the use of more sustainable materials include Massachusetts, New York and California to name a few. Officials have approved bans on styrofoam containers at takeout establishments, which is great...but WHY hasn’t this been extended to ALL restaurants, grocery stores and other vendors? So much more of an effort can be made on everyone part so let’s pull together and in the words of Ghandi “be the change you want to see in the world.” Every pound of polystyrene that is recycled is one less pound of styrofoam that doesn’t have to be created! 

Since it's first appearance in 1937, this product has exploded in just about every industry in some way or another. People have grown so accustomed to using it, but have not yet recognized how harmful it really is. It's unlikely that it will be going anywhere soon, so why don't we make it easier for people to recycle it? What about having more recycling receptacles specifically for EPS in highly populated areas? In addition to that, perhaps restaurants and fast food establishments like Dunkin Donuts could offer an incentive for customers to recycle with them by taking a percentage off their bill if they bring back their unwanted styrofoam containers. They could potentially benefit from this because by having that 'going green' edge, more customers may be willing to frequent their establishment more often.

Despite the fact that styrofoam has become the preferred choice of restaurants and shipping corporations, there are many alternatives that can be used that work just as well and don’t impact the environment. For example, a New York based company called Ecovative has come up with a unique organic alternate called EcoCradle, that is composed of a combination of agricultural byproducts like seed husks and plant stocks, recycled paper, and fungus. (Yes I said fungus, it sounds gross, but the process is actually all natural and sustainable, and no spores are ever involved!) The materials are mixed with mycelium, or mushroom tissue and the product is grown indoors without light or petrochemicals. 

Once grown, it is then dehydrated and treated with heat to stop further growth then molded into the desired shape. The end product is 100% biodegradable and actually helps the environment because it can be composted rather than thrown away.
Another product that can be used as a substitute for EPS is bagasse. It's a sugarcane fiber byproduct and can be molded into a variety of shapes and used as tableware, disposable containers or packaging. It can be used for both hot and cold foods and is created without any plastic or wax lining. Bagasse does biodegrade and it’s a great alternative to styrofoam because it looks and works just like EPS, but requires less water and energy!

Getting involved and rallying for a more sustainable lifestyle is easier than you may think. For example support restaurants and organizations that use more practical compostable products. Bring your own reusable storage containers to establishments and hopefully people will start doing the same. Speak up and voice your opinion - it can go a long way in persuading politicians and business owners to change their ways. Start recycling your polystyrene waste with us here at Gold Circuit! It must be free of food residues, but there is no charge for doing so and drop offs can be made at any time Monday-Friday between 8am & 4pm or 8am - 12pm on Saturdays.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Things To Think About: Living In a Disposable Society

Society today is so different from 50 years ago. We live in an age where people have become accustomed to simply throwing things away, whether they're worn out and broken or simply just old and boring. As technology continually advances, Americans are constantly looking for the newest 'upgrade' and this is having a devastating effect on our planet. 

Every week we tie up our waste and it gets taken away by waste removal companies and most people never think twice about what happens to it next. The motto 'out of site, out of mind' is the mindset of millions and the repercussions of this are evident all over the country. 

Our landfills are being capped at an alarming rate and most of the materials that line these massive dump sites can actually be recycled into other items. There are many items that can be broken down and reused to create new goods and one example is electronic waste, specifically computers.

Almost 99% of the components that make up these devices are recyclable. There are several toxic chemicals and heavy metals that are used in the manufacturing process including lead, cadmium, lithium, mercury and beryllium and not to mention the polluting plastics that don't easily biodegrade. When these items are irresponsibly disposed of they can pose serious threats. 

These materials can leach out of the landfill and not only pollute our environment, but also cause harm to people and animals even at low levels of exposure. By recycling these items you can help avoid these dangers and drastically decrease the amount of raw materials required to create new products. 
Start spreading the word about ways to transition from our disposable lifestyles and come on down and recycle your end of life materials with us to ensure that they are being responsibly recycled!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Back In Action!

Gold Circuit E-Cycling has changed locations! 
We're still in the Ludlow mill complex, but we've upgraded to a larger facility to better accommodate our customers. 

We are located at 90 First Avenue in Ludlow, MA. Our new location, building 170, has a loading dock so customers can easily back up to our door to unload. Just ring the doorbell when you're here and somebody will be out to assist you.

We are open for drop offs anytime during normal business hours, 
Monday-Friday 8:00am-4:00pm as well as Saturdays from 8:00am-12:00pm

We still provide customers with the same services including complete sortation and product tear down, hard drive shredding, secure paper document shredding as well as domestic CRT glass recycling and certified refrigerant evacuation. 

We'll be posting to this blog weekly with helpful tips, facts, pictures 

and reminders of upcoming community collection events so stay tuned for that!

In the mean time, feel free to check out our website at to learn a little more about us or give us a call at 888-283-0007.

What are your thought's on this month's post?