Thursday, September 28, 2006

Where to take your electronic junk

The good news is that we (from Metro Manila and other major cities) no longer have to search far for an “electronic junkyard” where our unwanted stuff could be consigned to, sorted properly for reuse or recycled. There is a way to prevent the rise of Payatas-like wastelands made up of toxic and harmful non-biodegradables such as computers, cellphones, microwaves ovens, electronic toys and gadgets, batteries and the like. Wall-size TVs, and tiny MP3 players and digital cameras will soon join the march to these junkyards.

Walk through the Jurassic Park that is your house or office and identify the electronic dinosaurs that have been sitting in dusty corners for years. At some point they reached obsolescence or were beyond repair. Where do you take them if there are no takers? They shouldn’t be consigned to the garbage dumps or coral reefs. They could be toxic and hazardous to living things. So where do these hardware go and wait to be reincarnated or recycled?

Some years ago I brought a car trunk-ful of these stuff to a vocational school of electronics that had use for them. I was so thankful they took them all—from cordless phone to dot matrix printer to radio/tape recorder that’s been silent for 20 years plus so many more. But I forgot to bring the 1993 laptop whose manufacturer is now extinct. It’s still waiting to be properly laid to rest.

The greenies have answers to questions pertaining to wet garbage and other biodegradable matter. But when it comes to the electronic gadgets, few could come up with concrete solutions as simple as where, what, how, when. Like, where should deadly dead batteries go besides the garbage dump?

This column piece is a recycled one, by the way, a chip off a long one, happily rewritten to announce a piece of good news: the Waste Trading Market or Recyclables Collection Event (RCE).

For several years now the Philippine Business for the Environment (PBE) has been running a yearly RCE that encourages groups, communities, institutions and individuals to bring their recyclables to buying stations (usually big open spaces). Junk (bottles, cans, ink cartridges, paper, etc.) could be exchanged for cash or new ones. This activity helps divert still useful materials from the landfills to the recycling industry. Donate your old, broken down computers, TV, aircon, cell phones, fax machines, laptop, adaptors, batteries, etc. but if there are buyers, that would be great. The goal is to not let these things end up in the dumpsites.

Starting Oct. 6 and every first Friday of the month thereafter, the “Waste Market” will be at Goldcrest parking lot, Arnaiz Ave., Makati. Starting Oct. 20 and every third Friday of the month thereafter, it will be at the Ayala Alabang Town Center (in front of St. Jerome Parish, parking lot 4), Muntinlupa. This is a pilot project that will run till December.

And where do all the electronic junk (or so-called non-traditional waste) go? PBE has a tie-up with HMR Enviro-cycle Philippines that has a plant in Sta. Rosa. Participating recyclers have complied with Department of Environment and Natural Resources requirements. They are not supposed to recycle, not discard stuff in the landfill.

Over the past years, RCEs have collected some 91 10-ton dump trucks of waste and diverted these from landfills. The estimated economic value of the waste may not be huge but the good done for the environment cannot be quantified.

The PBE office is on the 2nd floor of DAP Building, San Miguel Ave., Pasig City. Tel 6353670, 6352650 to 51. The RCE coordinator is Nancy Pilien. The executive director is Lisa Antonio. The chair is Edgar Chua, CEO of Shell.

Computer recycling is not new. One US group that I discovered on the Internet some years ago has this come-on: ``We recycle surplus micro computer equipment to maximize its economic value and minimize its environmental impact.’’ Back Thru the Future Micro Computers, Inc. had some terrifying data at that time.

``Did you know? Of 350 million desktop computers sold since 1982, 50 % (175,000) of these machines are in storage today. According to the National Safety Council only 6% of all PCs manufactured are recycled, while 70% of all major appliances are.’’

The company has several strategically located warehouses in the US. Proximity to sources of discarded equipment helps reduce freight costs. ``The simple fact’’ Back Thru said, ``is that as new technology becomes less expensive the cost of removing the old technology becomes a major cost factor in an upgrade budget. The value of the old equipment may no longer cover the cost of removal...

``The cost of recycling has increased dramatically…with the huge quantities of older equipment displaced in large corporations…There is not a single biodegradable item in a computer and they don’t belong in a landfill. Monitors are actually considered hazardous waste, and in many communities are banned from curbside pickup.’’

If you want to know more about computer recycling, go to an old link, The paper on this topic starts off by saying, ``When a big electronics company announces a big investment plan, interest usually centers on what products the company would be manufacturing. No one would ask the company what would happen to these products--personal computers, fax machines, microwave ovens, televisions--when they reach the end of their useful lives...’’

Not too long ago I watched a TV report about computer waste from a western country being shipped to a remote place China where people dismantle the machines to get at precious pieces of metal. The result: a horrible wasteland littered with computer debris.