Electronic 'trash' piling up

The box is about 4 feet by 4 feet, and stuffed inside are a few thousand dollars worth of "trash."

There is a Hewlett-Packard combination printer/scanner/fax/copier resting against a copy machine, which is nestled against a paper shredder. The HP machine is less than a year old and cost about $450. But replacing a part was deemed too expensive, so the machine was tossed, to be stripped for all usable parts, if that.

"I'd say this box is full once every two months, and that's when we ship it to our warehouse," said Jana Agee, a store manager at the Staples in University Park Village in Fort Worth.

This is just one box. In one store. In one city.

Multiply that by the number of desktop and laptop computers, DVD players, TVs, fax machines, copiers, printers, shredders, cellphones, MP3 players, and other electronics discarded around the world every year, to be sent somewhere other than a landfill.

The technology revolution has created an unthinkable amount of trash. Electronics are no longer built to last; they are upgraded or replaced on a regular basis by the next big thing.

Remember when a TV lasted a decade or two? Now, people change them like they do socks.

Your cellphone may fit in the palm of your hand, but according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, more than 100 million are tossed every year in the U.S. alone, along with 130,000 computers daily. And given that these devices have the potential to leak mercury, cadmium, arsenic and other substances into water streams if simply put in the trash, you can see why there is concern over where they end up.

So, as badly as you’d like to junk the "old" television sitting in your closet for the latest flat-panel high-definition LCD, those "dinosaur" TVs also contain lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and other toxic elements that can damage your health and the environment.

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