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April 22, 2010

Communities Safely Disposing of Old Computer Equipment
But There is Room For Improvement

Communities are working hard to dispose of old computer equipment, commonly called e-waste, in a safe and environmentally friendly manner, according to a report released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The communities reviewed did not, however, have specific disposal policies in place. Rather, they hired someone to dispose of their computer equipment to ensure it was done properly.

“These communities are focused on doing the right thing when it comes to safely disposing of computer equipment, but there is some room for improvement.” DiNapoli said. “They have diverted dangerous heavy metals such as lead and mercury from getting into the environment, and have recovered other valuable materials for reuse. This is the sort of effort every level of government must pursue to ensure a better, cleaner world for our children.”

The report covered the period July 2007 – August 2008. The communities reviewed included: Ulster County, Kingston City School District, Chatham Central School District and Schenectady County Community College.

Auditors noted that the four entities collectively owned 4,200 computer workstations and, through the use of third party vendors, recycling, public auctions/sales and donations, recycled 1,237 computer monitors and CPUs. Because of these efforts, auditors estimated that approximately 1,406 pounds of lead and 37 pounds of mercury did not enter the environment. Further, auditors estimated that recycling companies could have potentially recovered valuable materials including 1,554 pounds of copper, 37 pounds of gold and 3,146 pounds of aluminum.

DiNapoli recommended some improvement opportunities for the local officials:

  • Provide guidance related to the environmentally safe disposal of e-waste;
  • Request documentation (such as recycling/disposal certifications, etc.) affirming that e-waste was disposed in an environmentally safe manner;
  • Obtain itemized invoices that describe the e-waste that the recycling company picks up for recycling, regardless of whether or not the entity is charged for the services; and
  • Continue to dispose of their computer equipment in an environmentally safe manner.

Local officials generally agreed with DiNapoli’s recommendations and indicated that they will take corrective action.

Click here for a copy of the report.



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