A Greener Indiana

Everybody can do something to make a greener Indiana

My husband and I score high on compatibility quizzes. Our ideal vacation is a beach, a book, and peering up from the page only long enough to discuss our next meal. We relish silly British sitcoms and ballroom dancing.

We disagree on one thing, though: I’m a Tosser and he’s a Keeper. I would recycle anything not nailed down—even important household documents. (I admit I’m a little hasty at times!) He keeps the envelopes of bills long paid and old ticket stubs. What can I say? I married a sentimental guy.

I’ve decided to toss the old electronics cluttering the house. The ancient VCR gathering dust. The radio/cassette player that went kaput. The electric pencil sharpener that refused to sharpen a crayon and perished shortly thereafter.

And I’m tossing the cell phones that we finally replaced after years of use. At the phone store, the curious sales representative inspected Tim’s old device and mused, “Yeah, they used to make them that way.” He looked at my phone and just shook his head. We felt as if we were appearing on “Antiques Roadshow.”

We now own new phones, but what do we do with the old ones? Millions of people throw them away in regular trash, destined for landfills. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, we Americans toss 130 million cell phones every year. In one five-year period, we also trashed 250 million computers.

We’ve invented a new term for this: e-waste. Electronic waste now represents 5% of our trash; it even tops beverage containers and disposable diapers! And no wonder. As technology continues to advance at a faster and faster rate, new upgrades tempt us—who doesn’t want that sexy new iPod or flat-screen TV?

The problem: e-waste is often loaded with heavy metals like lead, mercury and cadmium that could leach from landfills into our groundwater. Tossing it into a Dumpster is not the answer.

Here are some strategies for handling these gadgets:

Don’t upgrade right away. Resist the urge to possess the latest and greatest. I hung on to my old cell phone for years; it took me that long to figure out the functions! We own a Bose CD player as old as our marriage of 16 years. The music still sounds great. Why upgrade when what you’ve got still works?

Use local waste management services. If you do decide to throw out the old stereo, remember that it doesn’t go in regular trash; I keep a box in my garage just for e-waste. Drop off your old electronics off at your local solid waste management district office for recycling and safe disposal. Usually it’s free; a nominal fee may be charged.

Donate your old electronics. Local charities will accept your electronics as long as they are still in good working condition. If your computer still works, don’t just toss it: there are non-profit organizations that refurbish old computers and give them to people who can’t afford a new one. Contact the Recycle Depot for more information on electronics donation in your area.

Tosser v. Keeper controversies continue at our house. I wanted to replace our 20-year-old Sony TV; the color gave out long before the set did. I whined. My children watched “Clifford, the Big Blue Dog.” My husband just couldn’t part with it. Finally, one day, it emitted a loud “pop” and went dead.

I poked the “on” switch. Nothing.

Yippee! Time for an upgrade at last!

Copyright Marianne Peters, 2008.

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