Environmental organizations bring attention to e-waste issue on America Recycles Day


Ben Chesnut

Alejandro Paredes, a member of the Engineers for a Sustainable World, discusses recycling of old computer parts with UT students during America Recycles Day. America Recycles Day brought together students from the Student Engineering Council, Engineers for a Sustainable World and various other student groups to teach people about different ways to recycle.

Tiffany Hinman

Students said no to electronic waste Thursday by recycling outdated devices in observance of America Recycles Day.

The Campus Environmental Center recognized the national holiday by hosting a recycling drive to collect students’ recyclable waste, including plastic bags, glass and electronics. Engineers for a Sustainable World, Engineering Council Sustainable Committee, the Office of Sustainability and the Division of Housing and Food Service set up tables at the event to collect specific items and educate students on the benefits of recycling.

The Campus Environmental Center hosts a recycling drive in honor of the holiday every year and focuses on a particular item to recycle each drive.

Hunter Mangrum, spokesperson for the Division of Housing and Food Service, said the division is working to help students become familiar with recycling electronic waste. Electronic waste bins will be placed in residence halls before the end of November, Mangrum said. He said in addition to encouraging students to recycle electronic waste, the division has made all recycling bins into single-stream collections that collect plastic, aluminum and compost. 

“The ultimate goal as a University is to empower students to take on the motto to change the world,” Mangrum said. “We hope that this will become the norm and that students will spread their education and environmentally conscious methods elsewhere.”

Psychology senior Faith Shin, director of the Campus Environmental Center, said the few places where electronic waste on campus can be recycled are often inaccessible to students. Shin said many students throw out their electronics because of this, resulting in a lifetime in a landfill and the leaking of toxic chemicals into water sources.

“Students consistently have to change out their electronics,” Shin said. “They typically change their cell phones every two years and their computers every three years. With this growing number, e-waste is becoming more of a problem on campus.”

According to the United Nations Environmental Program, an estimated 20 to 50 million tons of electronic waste is disposed of globally each year. Less than 20 percent of electronic waste worldwide is recycled, and 80 percent of U.S. electronic waste is exported to Asia, according to Do Something, an organization for social change.

Geography junior Reanna Bain, assistant director of the Campus Environmental Center, said the harmful chemicals electronic waste contains, such as mercury and lead, are detrimental to the water supplies of countries that receive U.S. electronic waste.

“E-waste is making whole countries into landfills of electronics,” Bain said.

Printed on Friday, November 16, 2012 as: E-waste added to recycling list