Take ’em back, officials say

Plano Star Courier

Cory J. Mageors


The age-old debate about computers taking over the world might not be as far fetched as most would think. Machines don’t necessarily have to be functioning robots to make an impact on the daily lives of Texans.

Monday night at the Plano City Council meeting, the Texas Campaign for the Environment brought nearly 1,200 handwritten letters to the council showing support from city residents who have joined a grassroots effort to force computer companies to take back and recycle outdated computers.

“The people of this community spent their hard-earned time writing these letters in support of our cause,” said Jessica Metcalf, a canvasser for the TCE.

The TCE went from door to door asking the community for support. From the buzz in the room by city officials like Mayor Pat Evans and Mayor Pro Tem Scott Johnson, the effort paid off.

“How can anyone say no to this?” Evans said.

As technology advances and consumers continue to buy new computers to replace outdated systems, dumpsites are filling up with heavy metals.

Currently there is no standard effective process of recycling computers. Many components are not necessarily built to be stripped down and salvaged.

However, TCE is working with Dell, Hewlett-Packard and the Electronics Retailers Coalition to do everything they can to get the federal, state and local officials to understand the necessity for a planned process.

With no system in place, the effect has been illegal dumping of the electronic waste all over the world. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, some waste that was used by the University of Texas, a school district in Irving and the Texas Department of Human Services was found in an illegal dump in Missouri. Also, China, Nigeria, India and other countries have found illegal dumps shipped from United States recyclers. Until Monday, only Georgetown had adopted the resolution for TCE to go to the state with the shared concern. Plano officially voted to approve the resolution Monday and became the second party involved.

By approving the resolution, Plano gave the TCE yet another city that is backing their cause. The TCE is hoping to gain more exposure and the capability go to the state government with many backers, that will signify the magnitude of this cause.

“We wanted to simply thank the council for basically bringing the resolution up,” said DFW Program Director for the TCE Robert Andrews. “We had to fight with other councils just to get it on the agenda. They think that it is anti-business, but it really is not.”

The cause is actually more cost-effective for businesses, he noted. If consumers are able to take back computers to vendors such as Dell and HP, then those businesses don’t have to spend as much on materials. The possibility of expanding and opening new departments, maybe even plants with the sole purpose of recycling computer products also adds value to their business.

“It is about environmental purity, but it’s also about pure economics,” said council member Shep Stahel. “We recycle the materials that are in there and put it right back into the stream to build new products. It’s real simple.”

The TCE will be asking the Transportation and Environmental Committee of Dallas on Sept. 25 to put the resolution on their agenda. Other cities like Ft. Worth and Houston are also in the sight of the TCE.

But the fact that Plano accepted and supported the TCE resolution, showed a true commitment to environmental causes.

“Their record has shown that they are a very progressive and forward thinking council,” said Andrews. “I must commend their environmental staff and the council members for the work they put into getting this on the agenda.”

As more cities understand the concept of recycling computers for the sake of the environment and business economics, less waste will fill Texas dumpsites. And ultimately leave everybody in a win-win situation.