I’m not a fan of using government research money to solve business problems. It would be better to create economic incentives to kick-start the free market system a little. Start with government green procurement practices that are stronger than those now in effect. Require electronics sold to the federal government to meet basic design for disassembly requirements, for example. Create special small business loan programs for startups that recycle and reuse components for waste electronics. For example, the PC/ABS widely used in monitor housings and keyboards could easily be re-used as a valuable engineering plastic with some positive inducements for the post-consumer supply chain. I’m sure our readers have more ideas.
Perhaps a simplified system of recycling is in order. As an example, in my location, recycling in general is restricted to a 6-gallon blue bin placed curbside on Wednesdays in the rare event the truck actually makes its rounds. I can recycle aluminum cans but not steel. I can recycle newspsper and magazines if it isn't likely to rain. And I can recycle plastic water and soft drink bottles, but not shopping bags.
I suggest a system that lets people recycle nearly everything, and lets them do it easily. As it stands now, I have nowhere to dispose of many things like my old 32" CRT television. I'd drive it across town if there were a place to take it and I didn't have to pay a ridiculous fee.
I thought about breaking up the tube and hiding it among the rest of the garbage, but my conscience wouldn't allow it. Instead, I put it in the back of my truck to take to a local manufacturer who would allow me to include it in their electronic waste. I made the mistake of stopping at the mall on the way there. I don't know where the TV went, but it didn't take long.
Funny story David. A lot of towns in the Northeast have what's called "single stream" recycling where all recyclables can be thrown in one blue bucket. These include paper, PET containers, HDPE milk jugs, some other plastics packaging, and glass. Old TVs are handled separately. My town separately collects scrap metal (real valuable right now) and wood from construction projects. I think any products that contain even trace amounts of toxic metals or chemicals need to be handled in a specialized waste stream. The idea of leaving seeminlgy valuable stuff in the back of a truck is a clever possibility though.
Today Sarbanes introduced complementary legislation designed to prevent minerals and other strategically important materials from being discarded in landfills. As part of a Natural Resources Committee markup on the National Strategic and Critical Materials Policy Act of 2011, Sarbanes worked to include provisions that would make the development of a domestic minerals recycling industry a Congressional priority as well as instructing the U.S. Geological Survey to consider recycling as a component of its Global Mineral Assessment. Sarbanes noted that currently, the largest domestic concentration of many of the rare earth elements needed in domestics high-tech manufacturing are found in landfills in the form of discarded electronic devices.
Doug, these are all good ideas. Keep in mind, though, how many things we take for granted today were created using government research money; the Internet which we are using to communicate, for one. Besides, the whole point of these competitive grants is to create economic incentives to kick-start the free market system. These grants fund ideas in the private sector which companies might not fund on their own, especially in a weak economy, since these ideas may not have an immediate pay-off. Making the grants competitve helps to ensure that the best ideas are funded.
What we certainly DO NOT NEED is a time wasting study about the problem. The cheap way to reduce the problem ois similar to the one used in Michigan to reduce the litter from pop bottles. The solution is a deposit law! Along with the purchase of each and any electronic device would be a $50 deposit, refunded when the device was turned in at an electronic junk recycling center. The interest on the money could easily fund a recycling program, or pay for shipping the waste to some other country for recycling. If the $50 deposit does not wind up producing adequate funds, then reduce the return to some lower amount.
I realize that this may possibly also slow the stream of E-Trash, but that would not be a negative thing, since the river of waste is at least partially driven by the six month product life cycle. Breaking that cycle would help to cause some positive changes in our national lifestyle.
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