Computer and Internet technology has simplified our lives at the workplace and home. It has enabled us to conduct business and reach family and friends faster than ever. We can now do all our shopping without leaving the office or home. As technology improves to make our computers and the Internet faster it also makes old computer equipment obsolete. The rapid turnover in computer technology, however, has one very negative effect in our lives and the future: it is environmentally unsafe when dumped in landfills and is now considered "hazardous waste." In 1998, it was estimated that 21 million computer systems became obsolete in the U.S. By 2007 that number will grow to an estimated 500 million. Of the 21 million computers that became obsolete in 1998 only 11% were recycled. This means 89% of obsolete computers will probably end up in landfills as hazardous waste, which is now against the law.
"Hazardous waste" is defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is "discarded material." Second, it is waste that is not covered by the Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act; that is, not air or water emissions. Third, it is waste that either exhibits certain specific hazardous characteristics (e.g., is corrosive or toxic) or is listed as a hazardous waste by the EPA. Hazardous waste is monitored by state agencies such as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The hazardous waste materials found in computers include:
CRTs comprised 24% of all lead found in landfills in a 1986 study. With the growth of computer technology this number increases exponentially as old computers will no longer serve useful purposes to U.S. businesses and homes. When mixed with water or fluid in landfills these materials become toxic liquids and seep into our water tables, rivers, streams, and lakes that provide us with drinking water.
Wisconsin's hazardous waste regulations prohibit businesses and institutions from disposing waste computers in solid waste landfills and incinerators and are subject to penalties for violations with each day of a continuing violation as a separate offense (Wisconsin Hazardous Waste Statute). Remember: all computers and components have serial numbers, which are traceable.
It is important that we all work together and do the next right thing to protect our environment. For the DNR guidelines for recycling computers please visit http://dnr.wi.gov/org/aw/wm/publications/recycle/pubwa420.pdf (Adobe Acrobat required), call your local DNR office (Milwaukee (414) 263-8500) or contact Miller Electronics Recyclers at (414) 541-1716 or email@example.com.
Q: Who is Miller Electronics Recyclers?
A: Miller Electronics Recyclers is a joint venture between Midwest Computer Recyclers and Miller Compressing. We bring over 20 years experience in electronics recycling to Southeast Wisconsin to provide all you E-Waste recycling needs.
Q: I paid thousands of dollars for this computer; why isn't it still worth something?
A: New computers are so cheap that people won't buy a used computer; they have become throw away items.
Q: What do you pay for computers?
A: Miller Electronics Recyclers charges businesses to dispose of their equipment. We operate drop off boxes so individuals can recycle their equipment no charge (please, no more than 2 system at a time in the drop boxes) If your computer is less than 3 years old and you think it might still have value, your best bet it to sell it to a friend or on the Internet.
Q: Why can't I just throw my computers in the trash?
A: Computers contain toxic metals, that can leach out of equipment in land fills and end up in ground water. The largest problem with computers is the monitors, each picture tube contains over 3lb of lead. The computers themselves contain lead solder and other contaminants. Because of this, the State of Wisconsin has defined computers and electronic equipment as hazardous waste and made it illegal to throw them in the trash. See the Wisconsin DNR web site for rules and fines.
Q: Why should I recycle my computers?
A: Besides complying with state law and avoiding state fines. Recycling puts materials back to use instead of in the trash. Its good for the environment by reducing land fills and reducing the need to mine more minerals.
Q: Why does it cost to recycle Monitors?
A: The lead in monitors is mixed in with the glass and cannot be simply removed. Monitors are disassembled, the picture tubes stripped of all external metal. The backs are cut off, the internal metal removed, the phosphor washed out, and finally the glass is ground up and reused to make new picture tubes, an expensive process.
Q: Why doesn't it cost to recycle PCs and other equipment?
A: PCs, Printers, and other equipment are fairly easy to disassemble and some of the materials have a scrap value. The time we put into stripping and sorting the materials is paid for by the money we get selling the scrap materials.
Q: Why does it cost to recycle copy machines?
A: Copy machines need to be cleaned and stripped before they can be scrapped. Toner must be cleaned out, circuit boards removed, any fuser oil removed, and the Optical drum removed (some of these can contain selenium or other heavy metals.) The scrap value of a copy machine is too low to pay for all the labor needed.
Q: What happens to the equipment?
A: Monitors get packed and shipped by the truckload to processors. PCs and other material get broken down, sorted and the scrap sold for recycling. Some components and usable equipment get re-marketed to reputable re-builders to help defray the handling costs.
Q: I only have one or two computers, do I have to pay to recycle them?
A: Miller Electronics Recycling operates a drop off box as a community service for individuals. Please no more than 1 or 2 systems at a time. We hope that businesses will contact us to arrange pickups and pay to have their equipment processed to help defray the cost of the drop box for individuals.
Q: What about TVs and Stereos?
A: We recycle all consumer electronics, stereos, microwave ovens, etc. Do to the high cost of processing picture tubes Miller Electronics Recycling charges to process TV sets; you can drop them at our warehouse or call to schedule a pickup for an extra charge.
Q: Can MeR fix my computer?
A: Think of Miller Electronics Recycling as a garbage company for computers, we don't do any repair or testing of equipment.
Q: Can I buy computer parts from MeR?
A: Miller Electronics Recycling does not have a retail store and does not do retail sales. We do sell scrap metals and some bulk computer components to recyclers and rebuilders by the pallet and truck load. Please call for more information.
Q: Do I still have to pay if I drop the equipment off?
A: The drop box if for individuals who want to have 1 or 2 system recycled. If companies would prefer to deliver their equipment rather than have us pick it up, please call to arrange a delivery. This can eliminate the minimum trip charge for loads with less than 5 monitors and delivered loads normally qualify for a discount on the recycling fees. Please call for details and to schedule a drop off time.
Q: What manufacturers does MeR recycle?
A. Miller Electronics Recycling recycles all manufacturers of computers, copiers and cell phones. Here is a list of the most common manufacturer names: Alienware, Alpine, Apple, Book PC, Bose, Boss, Boston, Brother, Canon, Clone, Compaq, CompUSA, Dell, eMachine, Gateway, Hewlett Packard, Hitachi, IBM, Intel, iPod, JVC, Kenwood, Kodak, Konica, Kyocera, Lanier, Lexmark, LG, MICRON Electronics, Minolta, Mitsubishi, Motorolla, MP3 Players, NEC, Ningho Bird, Nokia, OkiData, PalmPilot, Panasonic, PeoplePC, Phillips, Pioneer, Qualcomm, Radio Shack, RCA, Ricoh, RS, Samsung, Sandisk, Sharp, Siemens, Sony Erickson, Texas Instruments, TiVo, Toshiba, Velocity Micro, Xerox, Zenith.
Q: Why do I need the data on my hard drives or tapes destroyed?
A: Information stored on your hard disk can include everything from personal letters, passwords, to credit card and social security numbers. This data in the wrong hands can be used to steal your identity. Because of this, some industries are required to erase their hard drives when disposing of computers, this includes medical and financial institutions.
Q: How does MeR destroy Hard drive data?
A: When the computer is operable we use a program that performs a 3 pass write to every byte on the drive in accordance with US Department of Defense 5220.22M standard. If the computer is not working but the drive is we have equipment that performs this procedure on bare drives. In cases where the drive is not operating or has a nonstandard interface, we dismantle the drive, magnetically erase the platters, cut the platters in to pieces and have them smelted.
Q: Can't I just smash my drive with a hammer?
A: Although this renders the drive not operational, it is still possible to remove the platters and read the data using anther drive or specialized equipment. There are number of companies that perform this service for companies with crashed drives or law enforcement, try a web search on "data recovery". This also applies to drilling or punching holes in drives, putting them next to a strong magnet and even baking them in an oven.
Q: Can't I just drill or punch a hole in the drive and circuit board?
A: All this does is destroy the controller or a small portion of the media. The rest of the data is still recoverable. One recovery company shoots a drive clean through with a bullet and then recovers over 80% of the data.
Q: I can have my drive shredded, isn't this enough?
A: Shredding cuts the drive into small pieces, but does not remove the data. With current write densities of over 30G per square inch, even a 0.1" square piece still contains 300 million bytes of data.
Q: How does MeR destroy tape data?
A: We use a high gauss magnet eraser designed specifically to erase magnet media. The current generation of high Ostred media takes a very strong magnetic field to erase the data. Even a strong magnet rubbed on a tape will have little effect.
Q: How does MeR destroy optical data?
A: We use an industrial cross cut shredder to cut the disks into small pieces. This a procedure that most companies can perform in house, you can buy a shredder strong enough to cut CDs for under $300.
After picking up your equipment we provide you with a document (see an example document) that states that MER assumes responsibility for proper disposal of your equipment. If there are any problems in the future with disposal of your equipment we are liable.
If another recycler failed to properly process your equipment or just throw it in the trash you would still be liable for fines and cleanup. The Letter of Responsibility eliminates your company's responsibility.
The first step in any recycling program is "reuse". The Letter of Responsibility also allows equipment to be refurbished and reused without any liability to your company.