Despite increasingly diligent efforts to reuse, recapture and recycle, consumers often find that itís cheaper and more convenient to junk an old or outdated piece of electronics than it is to fix or upgrade it. But as they as caught up in the glow of the pride of ownership of a new product, many buyers never think about what happens to that old equipment once it has been abandoned for newer models.

These discarded electronic products, also known as e-waste, often end up in landfills or incinerators instead of being recycled. That means toxic substances like lead, cadmium and mercury ó all commonly used in the manufacture of electronics ó can contaminate our land, water and air.

The United States generates more e-waste than any other nation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. More than 4.6 million tons of it entered U.S. landfills in 2000, and that amount has been growing geometrically.

Some of that waste is recycled, and Brownwood area residents will have the opportunity to participate in such a program Saturday. Keep Brownwood Beautiful will sponsor a free citywide cleanup and e-waste collection from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. under the Austin Avenue over pass at Avenue A and Brady Avenue.

What might appear to be junk to many people still holds valuable materials. For example, steel, aluminum and copper are often stripped from outdated machines and reused in newer models. Itís an important but sometimes overlooked facet for people concerned with the environment, but Americans are slowly beginning to catch on. But other areas of the industrialized world are still far ahead of us.

Japan and the European Union have adopted progressive e-waste recycling laws. The European parliament recently approved two legislative mandates to require manufacturers to cover the recycling and collection costs for their own take-back programs. Meanwhile, Japanese electronics firms are acknowledged leaders in this area.

American citizens can step up and control the destiny of this valuable, and potentially hazardous, e-waste by participating in collection days such as the one scheduled in Brownwood Saturday. Today is the time to inventory storage rooms, closets, attics and corners where abandoned computers, monitors and other broken electronics have been left to gather dust. Gather them up, and take them in for recycling. Your part of the world will be less cluttered, and the world overall will be a better place.

Brownwood Bulletin