Landfill of North Iowa takes electronics disposal
Residents of North Iowa spoke
and the Landfill of North Iowa listened. According to Bill Rowland,
director at the landfill, business owners and residents frequently
contacted the landfill asking for assistance and direction for
recycling e-waste. E-waste, also known as “brown goods,”
refers to electronic equipment that is no longer usable or wanted.
It encompasses a broad and growing range of electronic devices,
including computers, TVs, cellular phones and personal stereos.
Today, when an electronic item
breaks, it is often perceived to be more cost-effective to discard
it and replace it with a new, more modern item instead of having
it repaired and this trend will only increase.
This opens the possibility of
environmental problems. A typical monitor with a cathode ray tube
(CRT) can have up to seven pounds of lead in the glass. Landfills
are designed to collect and remove potential hazards before they
have an opportunity to contaminate the environment, but the possibility
of contamination still exists. Because of the lead in the monitors,
the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified CRTs
as hazardous waste. While it is illegal for any business to dispose
of a CRT in the landfill, residents are exempt from the hazardous
waste rule. This exemption causes confusion and possibly illegal
disposal of CRTs.
To help reduce this confusion,
the Landfill of North Iowa Board, along with input from the Landfill’s
staff, started the permanent “e-cycling” program.
This provided all customers of the Landfill of North Iowa’s
service area an economical and convenient opportunity to recycle
e-waste. In November of 2005, the Landfill Board unanimously voted
to ban burying any TV, monitor or other device containing a CRT.
This proactive ban was one of the first in the state of Iowa.
Not only did it make good sense, but according to Rowland, “The
landfill board felt that it is only a matter of time before the
EPA or the IDNR will be developing rules to restrict or eliminate
the practice burying of e-waste.”
In the first six months of operation,
the new ecycling program has been a success with residents and
businesses alike. North Iowans have ecycled more than 75,000 pounds
of e-waste through this program so far.
All electronics collected through
this program are organized by landfill staff and shipped to Midwest
Electronic Recovery (MER) in Walford, Iowa, where all electronics
are repaired, reused, or recycled. Because of this, only a very
small percentage of material is actually landfilled. MER is the
only permitted CRT recycler in the state of Iowa.