Ever wondered what you’re supposed to do with your old electronics once you stop using them? Ever considered how the often toxic materials in your old laptops and cellphone can best be managed? If you’re interested in learning more about electronics waste recycling, head over to the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative (BERC) sponsored Electronic Waste Roundtable this Friday, February 17th at 2:30 in Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall. Speakers will include employees of market-drivers in the field, like Dell, and members of policy-oriented organizations, like Electronics TakeBack Coalition.
Last week, I had the chance to talk to Zoey Herm, Berkeley grad student and organizer of this forum, about electronics waste.
Why did you choose to organize a roundtable on electronics waste?
This is a very pressing issue globally in terms of human health and the environment. Specifically the topic was of interest to the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative because there’s a huge vacuum in the market for solutions to this problem. There are a lot of market incentives to work on this problem, which can be pushed by regulations, but also exist on their own. There’s a lot of valuable materials – plastics and metals – in electronics waste which can be recovered for profit.
What are some of the biggest challenges today in electronics waste recycling?
The biggest issue is deciding how to push regulation forward. There’s a divide in the policy arena about the best way to do that. For instance, extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a policy in most states in the US who have some kind of electronics waste program which requires the manufacturer to take some responsibility for the waste. There are other ways of dealing with it, like having the consumer pay ten dollars into the cost of any electronics when she buys it. Both types of policies exist today.
Are there proponents of both policies on this panel?
That should be a lively discussion!
This might be a silly question, but there are these boxes on campus where you can put your old cellphone. How do I know that they’re not just going into a landfill?
An organization called the Basel Action Network is the biggest non-profit for electronics waste in the US. They’ve established a certification program for electronics recyclers called the e-Stewards program. The boxes on campus are eSteward certified, so we can be sure that it’s being handled responsibly.
The eStewards program slightly controversial, because obtaining eSteward certification, like any certification program, is expensive.
Do you know of other resources for Berkeley students to dispose of their electronics waste?
Near campus is Green Citizen, the CEO of which will be at the round table. They have a lot of information as well as free e-waste recycling.
What do you want people who come to the Electronic Waste Roundtable to take away?
I’d want them to start thinking about themselves as global citizens when considering their electronics.