How to Recycle Computers and Electronic Equipment in Montclair

Environmental Affairs Coordinator Gray Russell

Computers are famous for their innovation and infamous for their rapid obsolescence. These days, many people expect a new computer to serve them for just two to three years at best before “must have” features become available only in newer models.

As new computers come into our homes, the “old” ones they replace have to go somewhere. Outmoded computers clutter closets, while ancient TV sets and busted Game Boys collect dust in basements.

About 3 million tons of e-trash were generated in 2005, according to estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency. That's 6 billion pounds of broken Blackberries, old monitors and TVs, and burned-out cell phones.

The National Safety Council reports that more than 60 million personal computers were retired last year, nearly 250 million computers will become obsolete in the next few years, and mobile phones (containing rechargeable batteries that are hazardous to human health) are discarded at a rate of 130 million per year.

Most people are unaware of the toxic materials in the products we rely on for access to the Internet, word processing, data management, music and video entertainment, and electronic games. In general, electronic equipment is a complicated assembly of materials, many of which are highly toxic.

Computer screens and TVs, for instance, contain around 4 pounds of lead. In fact, consumer electronics constitute 40% of all lead found in landfills. The main concern about lead in landfills is the potential for it to contaminate drinking water supplies.

Lead’s serious negative effects on children’s brain development have been well documented, especially to children under age six since lead is easily absorbed into their growing bodies.

Ironically, we use computers to stimulate and educate our children, yet our unknowing mismanagement of electronics when we’ve finished using them can cause reduced IQ, poor problem-solving ability, shorter attention span, hyperactivity, and even delinquent behavior, as well as a range of other health, intellectual, and behavioral effects in those same kids.

When Montclair residents throw unwanted electronic equipment into the trash it gets hauled to our incinerator, and the resulting ash – not a harmless dry ash like that from a cigarette, more like a molten toxic soup; and not a small fraction left over, but as much as one-third of the original volume – ends up eventually in a landfill, where the hazardous metals that the stuff was made of can leach into our groundwater.

Residents are encouraged to hold on to all “e-waste” temporarily because the Department of Community Services now accepts electronics and computer equipment at its Recycling Drop-Off Center every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. The DCS yard is located at 219 N. Fullerton Avenue.

Montclair residents may bring all of their obsolete or unwanted computers, monitors, keyboards, mice, printers, laptops and peripherals, networking equipment, and computer wires. In addition, televisions (no big-screens or consoles), cell phones and telephone equipment, fax machines, VCRs and DVD players, video games, camcorders, stereo equipment and radios may also be dropped off, for free. Appliances are not accepted.

All equipment is recycled, refurbished and reused, or otherwise disposed of properly.

Protecting human health and the environment while reducing waste and saving tax dollars exemplifies the sustainability goals of Montclair’s municipal government.

For more information, please call the Department of Environmental Affairs at (973) 509-5721.