Environmental groups speak out about consequences of holiday consumerism


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This holiday season, environmental groups are reminding consumers that increasingly short-lived gadgets have an impact on the natural environment. (Curtis Palmer/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | November 29, 2017

U.S. shoppers spent $5 billion in 24 hours on Friday, making Black Friday 2017 a record haul for retailers. Whether it’s purchased online or in stores, the new Hatchimal or the Nintendo Switch, environmental activists warn that consumers should think twice about the impact these goods have on the environment.

Greenpeace, an independent global campaigning organization, reported that electronic goods alone are expected to generate 50 million tons of waste in 2017. Electronic goods like smart phones and laptops make up the quickest growing waste stream worldwide, less than 16 percent of which is expected to be recycled this year. About one-third of e-waste that is recycled is sent overseas to countries like Kenya and Pakistan to be taken apart by workers that are not protected from the toxic materials that can be found inside electronic gadgets.

Plastic is also a primary contributor to waste during the holiday season. Used for everything from toys to wrapping paper to grocery bags, more than 300 million tons of plastic is produced each year with about 8 million tons of it dumped into oceans annually. Plastic can take more than 400 years to break down and has mounted to form two enormous plastic islands in the Pacific Ocean, one of which is estimated to be more than one million square miles in size.

Friends of the Earth environmental activist Julian Kirby asked of holiday shoppers, “If you don’t need it or want it then don’t give them your money. If you are going to take advantage of what’s purported to be lower prices then don’t rush into it, think about whether it’s the most sustainable and ethical product and whether you might be able to get a second hand version that’s able to do just as good a job.”

New industrial and electronics recycling facility


Photo by Bert van Dijk, Flickr.
Photo by Bert van Dijk, Flickr.

A new industrial and electronic recycling center has opened in Baxter.

H&W Recycling accepts items such as refrigerators and cell phones. The company scraps what they receive for metal and then sells it to a Metal Recycling facility in Des Moines. This business should help keep appliances and electronics out of the landfill.

Electronic waste is responsible for 40 percent of the lead and 75 percent of the heavy metals in landfills. Both materials are toxic and can leach into the groundwater if disposed of incorrectly.

Read the full story here.

How to environmentally dispose of electronic waste


Photo by U.S. Army Environmental Command

Ever wonder how to best dispose of your old electronics?

Many electronics should not be thrown out in the regular trash. Electronics often contain toxic chemicals that can enter the groundwater while sitting in landfills.

In fact, starting next year it will be illegal for Illinois residents to throw out electronics – there is no such ban in Iowa.

There are many recycling options for electronic waste. Often, manufacturers such as IBM and Apple will offer ways to recycle their computers and other products. Additionally, Midwest Electronic Recovery – an electronics recycling company – has two locations in Iowa (Walford and Clive).

For the full article on Illinois’ new electronic waste law, read the Quad-City Times article here.

For information on disposing of electronics in Iowa, and the harmful effects of throwing out electronics, visit the Iowa DNR’s webpage here.

Update: The EPA has even more suggestions on where to recycle electronic waste here.

It is also worthwhile to find out your city’s protocol for recycling electronics. Some cities in Iowa, including Iowa City, have some services available.