Electronic Recycling Prevents Waste in Landfills

So, what to do with that old computer or phone?   Electronics comprise a significant and growing number of houseold items.   Yet many of them contain toxic materials that can contaminate air and water when dumped in landfills.   This includes lead, cadmium, and mercury.   Cadmium is generally used to prevent corrosion and poisoning occurs from inhalation.   The dangers of lead and mecury are well documented.   Both can accumulate over time and lead can cause cognitive deficiency in children.  Recycling prevents the release of these chemicals into the enviroment as well as the recovery of valuable metals, such as gold and silver. 

    In addition to computers and phones, electronic waste also includes houseold appliances, lighting, electric tools, toys, medical devices, and monitoring equipment.   All of these contain chemicals that can be detrimental to air and water.   Recycling involves two different groups.  First there are collectors which sort items and ship them out  Second are the actual recyclers which dismantle the items to recover the parts and metals which can be reused.    

Charlotte Low, the Operations Manager for Central Vermot Solid Waste, said that one third of all Central Vermont recyclables are electronics. She said the most common toxic materials are freon from refrigerators, which depletes the ozone and lead and cadmium fom televisions, which pollute air and water.

Robin Ingenthron, the CEO of Good Point Recycling in Middlebury, VT and founder of fairtraderecycling.org, said they dismantle the items they receive and the sell the parts. He gave the example of TV repair shops which may need a part for merchandise under warranty but are uable to get it from the manufacturer. Ingenthron said the largest release of toxic material is through mining and he saw the mission of recycling of keeping material in the economy rather than mining new ore. There have been concerns about the overseas trade. Ingenthron responded to these concerns by saying that the international trade helps to encourage investment. He said cell towers would not be built if reusables were not being shipped. The Basel Action Network (BAN) is a watchdog group that tracks electronic devices, and according to their website, a February 2019 study found 6% of computer and computer equipment shipments “very likely” illegal. However, as of this publication, they have not responded to an interview request.

Most of us keep our food in refrigerators, use computers at work, and listen to the radio. However, all of these items contain chemicals that can be detrimental to the enviroment if dumped in landfills. Thus, finding responsible recyclers keeps these chemicals out of the enviroment, can provide parts for other equipment, and reduces mining.

Viral Hemmorhagic Septisemia May Be Preventable

Something strange was happening.  Dead fish were washing up on the shores of the Great Lakes.  The cause was determined to be viral hemmorhagic septisemia (VHS), a virus that infects approximately 38 species of both marine and freshwater fish.  As stated above, it was introduced into the Great Lakes in the early 2000s and there are concerns about it spreading eastward.  The symptoms include hyperactivity, twisting of the body, and erratic swimming.  In its most severe form, fish become lethargic with bulging eyes, liver and kidey abnormalities, and bleeding in the eyes, skin, gills, fin bases, skeletal muscles, and interal organs.  It is unknown how it was introduced into the Great Lakes, but according to http://www.seagrant.umn.edu, genetic evidence suggests it may have been transported in water from ships or migration from infected fish.  Aquaculture and bait transportation have also been liked to the virus’ spead. Shawn Good, a Fisheries Biologist with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife, also said it was likely introduced through bait transportation.  He said bait fish were caught, sold to shops, and subsequently sold to anglers.   It is found in all the Great Lakes as was as lakes in Ohio, New York, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

It is native to eastern and western Europe, Japan, the Pacific coast (California to Alaska), and the North Atlantic coast.   Good said that fish which are found where the disease is native do seem to be more resistant as a result of having evolved with it. The disease fares best in cold water and is unable to survive in warm blooded animals.  Thus, it is not one that humans can catch.   While it is not unsafe for people to eat fish with VHS, Good said it is not something he would recommmend.

Good said no threatened or endangered species are at risk.  However, he also said it can affect different species in different ways.  Some appear to be just carriers.   Some are not affected at all, while others seem to be prone to it.  The reasons for this are unknown.   Good also said the virus can exist outside of a host for a couple of weeks, thus giving it time to spread.   However,  he also said survivors can pass the resistance traits to their offspring thus potentially creating a population which may be more resistant in the long run.   He also said its effect on overall populations can vary.   Muskellunges (esox masquinongy) or “muskies” are large predatory fish which can grow up to up to five feet and weigh up to 60 pounds.  They are considered rare even in a healthy population and Good said they were seriously impacted by the disease in the St. Lawrence River and it would likely take 20 years for the population to recover.   However, other species which are faster growing, such as sunfish and bass recover much more quickly.

According to http://www.seagrant.umn.edu,  there are also concerns with the impacts to aquaculture.   When fish are confined and stessed, as they are in an aquaculture setting, the disease can be much  more serious.  Good also stated that fish in a weakened condition tend to be more vulnerable and said that approximately 20 years ago, hatcheries in Europe took a serious hit from the disease.   This was at least in part due to taking eggs from wild stock.   As a result, this practice was temporarily stopped, quarantine areas were created, and water sterilization was also added.  Good said that due to these preventative measures, that so far as he knew, no U. S. hatchery had an outbreak.

While it can be a serious disease, taking precautions such as the ones stated above can do much to limit the spread.   Good said that many of the Great Lakes states, including New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan had passed laws making it illegal to move fish from an infected area and he said there were similar laws in Vermont.   He said by following these laws it may be possible to prevent the further spread of the disease.