To the Editor:
With Earth Day upon us, we urge you to think twice about throwing out that old cellphone or tablet.
One reason: More than $130 million of gold, copper and rare earth metals end up in America’s landfills every year in the form of cellphones and tablets.
These metals are better used when recycled, for they can help build new electronic devices. Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to motivate people to action, and the simple act of recycling your personal electronics helps the environment and the economy. By recycling your electronics, the United States can reuse materials instead of relying on foreign imports.
If more electronics such as cellphones and tablets were recycled, less environmentally damaging mining would have to be done for future manufacturing because fewer materials (such as gold and copper) would be needed, thus reducing the amount of mining done.
Moreover, the metals in these devices are becoming increasingly expensive because the amount found in the earth is limited, and mining for these metals becomes more and more costly as new sources are searched for. Additionally, there are hazardous materials in electronic devices that damage the environment when thrown away.
For these reasons, more than 25 states have enacted laws mandating electronic waste recycling. Illinois’ law is titled the Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act. Last updated in 2011, the act helps to increase the number of electronic devices that are recycled, but there is still more that can be done.
Illinois Rep. Mike Fortner has suggested one small change to the act. On Feb. 11, he introduced HB 5920 to the Illinois General Assembly. The change being suggested is a small fix to enable the definition of a tablet to have a screen size of 4 inches or greater (currently it reads 6 inches or greater). This change may seem insignificant, but it closes a loophole preventing some tablets from being accounted for and recycled.
Under the guidance of American Physical Society Senior Policy Analyst, Mark Elsesser, we worked with Rep. Fortner on the change, and, currently, the bill remains in the state Renewable Energy & Sustainability Committee.
So this Earth Day, let your representatives know that you want them to support the change in HB 5920 so that it can become a law. With your help, we can fight to make the world a greener and less wasteful place.
Undergraduate Physics Researcher, Northern Illinois University
American Physical Society Intern