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Fluorescent Lightbulbs and Old Electronics

Q: You wrote about compact fluorescents previously, but what about the big, long fluorescent lightbulbs? Can we recycle those at our local hazardous waste drop off too? A: The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District will accept all types of fluorescent bulbs – as long as you prove residency status when dropping them off. Our local household hazardous waste collection program operated by the District will accept these bulbs at any of the City’s self-help centers, operated by the Department of Public Works. The closest self-help center to Riverwest is 3879 W. Lincoln Ave., open Friday and Saturday from 7am to 3pm. If you are a business, you cannot drop off bulbs through the City’s program for residents. Seek out a recycling business such as one listed on the Wisconsin Be Smart Coalition’s website: www.besmart.org/hazwaste/business/bulb.html. Q: What should we do with our old TVs, cell phones, computers, and other electronics?   A: With an estimated 25 million TVs and nearly 100 million cell phones being retired each year, and 30 – 40 million PCs over the next five years in the US alone, laden with toxic materials, that’s a good question to ask. You should bring all electronics (FREE!) to the City’s self-help center (address above). If you actually bring it to an authorized recycler such as this one, electronics parts will be broken down into their recyclable, hazardous, and trash components in an environmentally-friendly way. Rick Meyers, City of Milwaukee Recycling Manager, says that the City contracts its residential e-waste out to Cascade Asset Management, a Madison-based firm that claims to recycle 99% of what it takes in. In Milwaukee alone, over 420 tons of electronics waste in 2006 and 2007 were refurbished or recycled. The EPA estimates that Americans consume and dispose of 1.5 – 2 million tons of computers, TVs, VCRs, monitors, cell phones, and other equipment every year. That number will surely rise over the next several years. Worldwide, the current total could be as much as 50 million tons a year, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. Not all of this is being recycled – only 20-30% of our e-waste is getting recycled and the rest is being thrown away. Why? Many people don’t know that electronics have hazardous materials and need to be disposed of or recycled properly. Spread the word! Advocates for a “take back” law say that manufacturers should be required to pay for the cost of disposal. Some companies such as Dell, Apple, Hewlett Packard and Sony have adopted such a policy. With most of these companies, you have to ship the materials to them – which sometimes can be expensive.

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