I want to give a public pat on the back to Mayor Joe and his staff and administration for the outstanding efforts and dedication they have show over the last 5+ years to pursuing green development in Somerville. When I read his commentary in last week’s paper about “Making the Green Choice the Easy Choice”, I just about jumped out of my chair- not just because it was further evidence that Somerville is leading the way on tackling climate change and the investments we have made in clean energy and zero-sort recycling are already paying major dividends (already $2 million saved in energy costs and recycling is up 51%!), but because the City has now added a free program electronic waste recycling! E-WASTE!
You see, back in 2003, I wrote my senior thesis at UC Santa Cruz on just that topic, as I was so disturbed by the growing trend of Americans either simply dumping these horribly hazardous materials (CRTs are among the most toxic waste items that exist) in landfills where they contaminated drinking water or- unbeknownst to most- shipping them overseas to China or India where poor villagers would work to disassemble dangerous pieces with no health protection and children would play catch with old computer mouses across canals clogged with keyboards and wires (Search to documentary, “Exporting Harm: The High Tech Trashing of Asia”) What I learned through researching and writing that thesis (titled “E-Waste: The Dark Side of Technology”) was that the electronic waste stream was not only far more dangerous than the household or commercial waste stream, but one in dire need of a closed loop system- one that would ensure that its toxic remains didn’t continue to either pile up in people’s closets or end up in a deadly heap.
Exactly 10 years after writing that thesis, I still get excited when I hear news about e-waste recycling programs, and better yet, producer take-back programs that require the manufacturers to take back their products at the end of their life cycle and handle the difficult phase of recycling the product rather than dumping it on customers and municipalities. By allowing residents to drop off their old computers, televisions, printers, scanners, blenders, you name it- for free at DPW- Somerville is taking a huge step toward making the green choice the easy choice. And as Mayor Joe wrote last week, by doing this we are not just helping the environment, we are helping our bottom line (the new program is expected to save the City more than $75,000 per year in electronic waste disposal fees!)
My only concern at this point is that the e-waste received at DPW will actually be recycled and/or re-assembled here in the US, and in a safe, legal manner. I am sure the City has done its research on this- in fact, I have already gone to my basement to gather that old printer and blender for a drop-off!
Happy E-Waste Recycling,
Julia Prange Wallerce