Congress Crafts National Tech Recycling Plan

Recycling paper, plastic, and glass has become routine, but what are you supposed to do with the old laptop or analog television that's taking up precious storage space in your attic or basement? Electronic devices have certainly flooded the marketplace: Americans today own more than 2 billion of them, approximately 25 per household, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. But as consumers continue to upgrade to the most up-to-date gadgets technology has to offer, the number of obsolete devices grows exponentially each year.

And the refuse is more than just a nuisance or an eyesore. Such devices often contain potentially hazardous materials--mercury, arsenic, titanium, aluminum, and (if nothing else) lead. A 2003 EPA report estimates that roughly 50 million computers and 20 million televisions are disposed of each year, but that only 10 percent are recycled. This situation has not gone unnoticed by Congress. The Senate subcommittee on Superfund and Waste Management met recently to discuss a national approach to managing the increasingly growing burden of e-waste--the first Senate hearing of its kind.

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