LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - Electronics are a popular holiday gift, leaving old electronics to find a new home. According to the DNR, some of this electronic waste, known as "e-waste," ends up on public lands and roadways.
"It's an ongoing problem and it continues to rise," said Scott Szymanski, Solid and Hazardous Waste Specialist, with the Wisconsin DNR, "because, of course, everybody has an electronic gizmo of some type."
Besides costing taxpayer money to remove illegally dumped e-waste, it poses environmental and health concerns. This is because electronics often contain hazardous materials like lead and mercury.
"What can happen is with time, with weathering, these metals can what we call "leech" or come out of the units," said Szymanski. "And they can go into the soil, into the groundwater, they can be picked up by animals and eventually that exposure can return to humans."
Szymanski said while some illegally dumped e-waste may be a result of residents being unsure of how to dispose of it, most of the e-waste found on public lands has been stripped of valuable materials like copper.
Szymanski said the DNR is concerned that people may be trying to dispose of their e-waste properly, and salvagers, posing as reputable recyclers, are getting their hands on it instead.
"What we think is happening," said Szymanski, "is we have a few fly-by-night folks that are advertising for these units, they're stripping out the valuable metals and then the remainder of the unit is being disposed of illegally at a matter of convenience."
Before giving your old electronics to anyone, Szymanski said it's important to make sure all of the materials will be disposed of properly, not just the valuable parts.
"If they're dealing with an individual who claims to dispose of these [e-waste] properly make sure to ask questions," said Szymanski.
Otherwise, many big-box stores and small businesses accept old electronics as well as the La Crosse County Hazardous Materials Facility.
For more information on e-waste and e-waste disposal you can visit the City of La Crosse website and the La Crosse County Household Hazardous Materials Program website.
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