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BY PAUL BOERS
GOSHEN -- That obsolete computer or old TV could be more dangerous than many Elkhart County residents realize.
Television sets, computers, monitors and other electronics make up a category of hazardous waste called electronic waste or e-waste. E-waste can contain a number of toxic materials, including mercury, cadmium, polychlorinated biphenyls, polyvinyl chloride and lead.
Elkhart County's hazardous waste collection has seen increasing amounts of e-waste in the last four years and is one of the largest categories, said Elkhart County Solid Waste District director Tim Neese.
With the Feb. 17 television broadcast transition to digital approaching, electronic waste collection could increase further as more TVs are retired. Each TV can contain up to 20 pounds of lead, according to Eric Kanagy, chief executive officer of Red Post Inc., a Goshen tech company that recycles e-waste as well as sells digital sign systems.
"E-waste is nasty stuff," Kanagy wrote in a blog post. He later said: "There's more of it out there than we expected and it's a bigger problem than we expected."
If Elkhart County residents mix e-waste in with other garbage or throw it in a bin, it ends up in the landfill, instead of being processed or recycled.
"We don't want this stuff in the landfill," Elkhart County landfill manager Kim Davis said. At the same time, Davis said the landfill does not have enough staff to monitor all waste that comes in. Instead, he calls for homeowners to take charge of their own e-waste.