Cell phones. Computers. Monitors. Printers. Televisions. Technology is constantly advancing, and so we’re continually upgrading to new devices. But what happens to the old ones? All too often, they end up in landfills – becoming a toxic stream of e-waste that threatens our environment and wastes valuable, recoverable natural resources.
End-of-life electronic waste, or e-waste, is one of the fastest-growing waste streams around the world, in both developed and developing countries, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme. Every year, nearly 50 million metric tons of electronics are discarded, and a surprisingly small percentage is repurposed or recycled. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only eight percent of cell phones by weight, 17 percent of televisions and 38 percent of computers were recycled in 2009.
That’s a problem, because improper disposal severely impacts both the environment and human health. Electronics contain hazardous materials, such as lead, mercury and cadmium among others, which, if sent to a landfill, can pollute air, contaminate soil and leach into the water supply.
During the first weekend in May, Macy’s Partners in Time and our Cincinnati Go Green employee resource group (ERG) teamed with The Cincinnati Reds, Cohen Recycling and other corporate sponsors to take a stand against e-waste with a massive three-day, e-waste collection drive.
More than 1,800 donors turned out in three locations to drop off everything from old computers and televisions to keyboards, power cords, stereos and cell phones. Macy’s Go Green ERG team members staffed the recycling drop-off point at the Cincinnati Hyde Park location, directing traffic, carrying electronics, collecting donations and handing out Cincinnati Reds tickets to the donors.
This is the eighth year for the program, which has diverted more than one million pounds of electronics from landfills in the U.S. and abroad, according to Cohen Recycling, which manages the recycling of the collected materials. 2017 also marks our fifth year participating and fourth year as a financial sponsor, according to Elena Pfarr, Macy’s director of environmental services and co-coordinator of the event.
While totals for this year’s drive aren’t yet available, the drive netted more than 175,000 pounds of e-waste in 2016, and event organizers indicated the 2017 numbers were similar. Overall, it was a successful three-day event to promote sustainability.