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Editorial: Proper electronics recycling needed more than ever

Mar. 22, 2013 @ 11:42 PM

The digital revolution has a big downside.

All of those computers, TVs, tablets and smartphones are full of toxic materials that can contaminate the ground and groundwater when we throw them away and into our landfills.

And unfortunately, we throw them away at a faster pace every year. More than 500 million electronic devices are sold in the United States in a typical year -- many households literally have dozens of devices. The volume ready for disposal has more than doubled in the past 10 years and continues to increase.

For environmental reasons alone, the country needs a robust recycling effort. But reusing the components, such as copper, also helps conserve natural resources.

West Virginia lawmakers took a progressive stance on the issue in 2010 when it banned throwing any electronics with screens larger than 4 inches into a landfill. But this session, a proposal is working its way through the legislature to lift the ban and once again allow electronics to be accepted at landfills across the state.

Proponents argue that the state has failed to put together an effective recycling program, and especially in rural counties, residents just dump TVs and computers on the side of the road.

In other words, this is hard, so let's give up.

But that approach is just kicking the can down the road. The ban has prompted some excellent "e-cycling" efforts, including one-day drop-off programs that have collected tons of electronics. Many companies also have begun "take back" programs, and why not? Apple and others have made billions selling these devices, and they have a responsibility to help protect our environment.

West Virginia lawmakers should not throw in the towel on e-cycling. Rather they need to help counties find a way to make it work.

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