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Sunday, November 09, 2008

US Dumping Ground

Nationwide, computer and electronic waste comprises about 1% of the 230 million tons of garbage generated each year, and electronic waste is growing at three times the rate of other household waste. This waste is also more toxic than normal household garbage. Computers and other electronic devices contain toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, antimony, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead,
mercury, nickel and zinc. It is estimated that 40% of all heavy metals in household garbage comes from electronic equipment. Although the metals, glass, and plastic in electronics are recyclable, more than 70 percent—or 3.2 million tons—of the electronic waste stream ends up in landfills. ( http://www.tchd.org/pdfs/electronic_waste.pdf).

On 9, November 2008, 60 Minutes, dicussed a story in regards to US technology waste (CRT's) and where this waste was going. Apparently to Hong Kong , according to 60 minutes, to sit outside on a land fill among many living habitants( pictures right and below of trash heaps in Hong Kong).

More than 42 companies were exporting American Cathrode Ray Tubes, that contain large quanities of lead and other computer related trash, that apparently was tracked from several locations like Denver. In our economics courses we have discussed the market externality of public garbage as far as "Dumping"on other countries. Like Pollution the public contributes individually to a cumulative waste that the market doesen't completly take care of. So in this case,does the US have an efficient level of waste? - Yes we have waste efficiency if the US continues to dump on other countries ( even if there is still a political problem about dumping). IF the US does not dump ;however, the US does not have waste efficiency (especially waste that has related chemicals that may or may not decompose in landfills). I am not sure how one could measure the efficient level of pollution i.e. numerical value for waste is just as difficult in determining. There are recycling plants such as NCER ( National Center for Electronics Recycling) , and LG Recycling ( partnership of LG electronic and waste managment inc. - Has expanded this program to Denver and other cities-), Electronics Recycling in El Paso County off Wahsatch Avenue ( 719- 219-3996), and El Paso County Hazardous Waste Recycling Center on MarkSheffel Road ( 719-520-7878).

Like pollution I would assume especially for Eubanks class that we would create a corrective tax to fix this market externality of waste. I think that this tax should be a flat tax on the consumption of a electronic product. This tax should be the same for each electronic device that is consumed intially so that people would be less likely to want brand new equipment and hold their existing devices for a longer duration ( since waste is created because many consumers want the latest technology and quickly discard a working electronic device). I think that by creating this tax on a newly produced good would create incentive for two things: Preventing more waste by wasting working electronic devices and 2) creating more income for recycling plants

I think the nature of the pollution problem associated with electronics is likely to be perfect for a deposit refund system.
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