2008-05-09 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

Could You Live Without Your Electronics Gadgets? How To Reduce Energy Consumption
Commentary By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

AUDREY PHEFFER AUDREY PHEFFER Could you live without your cell phone? How about your computer? The use of electronic equipment has increased productivity and made our lives easier. However, when this equipment reaches the end of its useful life, or you decide to upgrade to a newer model, it is important to remember that many electronic products contain hazardous substances, such as lead and mercury, that can threaten public health if they are released into the environment. Luckily, there are several ways to reduce this threat by disposing of electronic products in a responsible manner. When it comes time to replace the following consumer products - compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), televisions, computers and cell phones - keep the following tips in mind.

You'll feel good about keeping your family and the environment safe.

One of the easiest ways to reduce energy consumption and your energy bill is to replace incandescent lighting with energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Compared to incandescent bulbs, CFLbulbs can last six times as long and use about seventy-five percent less energy, resulting in an estimated thirty dollars in savings in electricity costs over the lifetime of the bulb. The benefits of CFLs are clear, but what happens when a bulb does eventually burn out? Since CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, they need to be disposed of properly. As with other electronic products, CFLs should be recycled or dropped off at an electronic waste processing facility, such as a municipal transfer station or a recycling center.

If you are considering a major electronic purchase that will replace an old product, such as a television or computer, be sure to learn the recycling options available to you. Some manufacturers have implemented recycling "take back" programs for their products. For example, Apple Computer provides free shipping and environmentally friendly disposal for customers' old computers with the purchase of a new computer. There are also other computer and electronics recycling programs run by various public and private agencies. For a list of such programs, visit the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) eCycling website at: http://www.epa. gov/ecyc ling/.

Some municipalities and waste haulers accept electronic equipment as part of special household hazardous waste disposal days. Check with your municipality or waste hauler for more information.

While it is important to recycle and properly dispose of large electronic equipment, don't forget about smaller products such as cell phones and personal digital assistants. According to the EPA, fewer than twenty percent of all discarded cell phones are recycled. Are you considering replacing your cell phone or personal digital assistant? In 2006, New York enacted a law requiring cell phone retailers to accept used cell phones for reuse or recycling from customers at no charge. Another option is to donate an old cell phone to a charity which will re-use them for seniors or domestic violence victims. For more information on the law, visit the Department of Environmental Conservations website at: http://www. dec.ny.gov/.

For more information on cellphone recycling, you may want to visit the EPA's cell phone recycling website at: http://www.epa.gov/cellphones/.

Electronic equipment can provide consumers with hours of use and entertainment. When it comes time to dispose of these products, remember to be a responsible consumer and recycle or dispose of such products in a socially and environmentally friendly manner.

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