Taking Out the Trash

Computer waste can be a hazardous addition to garbage dumps, spreading lead, mercury, chromium and other compounds into the ground (See "Buffalo Burgers, Trashed PCs and Dirty Cotton," Ask E, July/August 2002). While it may seem obvious that recycling is necessary to reduce the risk of possible pollutants, it remains relatively difficult for consumers to dispose of their old computers easily and cheaply. Now however, Dell has begun to offer a free pickup recycling service to customers buying a new PC. For the first time, customers can now pack up their old computers and set them out for retrieval at no extra expense. For people who want to recycle their computer but didn’t buy a Dell, the company will also continue to offer a no-purchase-necessary PC recycling program ($15 normally, $5 for a limited time). Dell is the only major computer manufacturer in the U.S. offering free recycling to its customers, but is not likely to be the last.

Dell is now offering computer recycling—even if you didn"t buy a Dell.©Bisson Bernard/Corbis Sygma

CONTACT: Dell Inc, (800)915-3355, www.dell.com.

—Aaron Midler

Papering Over a Brownfield

Kenaf, a long-fiber plant that was deemed "the best option for tree-free papermaking in the U.S." by the USDA, has slowly been gaining supporters (see "The Paper Chase," cover story, May/June 2004). Vision Paper is currently in the process of setting up a kenaf pulp processing plant on a polluted Superfund site just east of Milan, Tennessee. "We can make a positive contribution to making a clean, green manufacturing facility that will utilize and revitalize this brown field," says Tom Rymsza, president of Vision Paper. Unlike traditional pulp manufacturing, the processing of kenaf does not result in the release of sulfurous fumes or toxins such as dioxin. "We will process raw kenaf fiber into pulp using the cleanest technologies available. The process has significant benefits for rural economies, the environment and our customers," says Rymsza. The 22,000-acre property still houses a munitions manufacturing facility, and about a third of the land is currently leased to farmers. Vision hopes to begin engineering work at the site by the first of the coming year.

CONTACT: Vision Paper, (505)294-0293, www.visionpaper.com.


Genetic Engineering’s Fishy Results

Public debate over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has largely focused around their benefits and drawbacks to human beings (see "Food Fight," cover story, July/August 2003), but a recent study conducted at Purdue University is likely to lead the discussion in a different direction: environmental safety. Male Japanese medaka fish, genetically modified to grow 83 percent larger than normal, were introduced into a mixed population of unmodified medakas. Though the modified medakas mated more frequently, their offspring were less viable. In a laboratory setting, only 70 of the GMO offspring reached reproductive age for every 100 of the unmodified offspring, meaning that only fractions of the breeding population survive. "As the population becomes more and more genetically modified, there are fewer normal males that modified males compete with, resulting in a smaller and smaller population as time goes on, ultimately leading to population extinction," says Richard Howard, a Purdue researcher. The results of this study are the first hard evidence for the "Trojan Gene" theory, which predicts that a genetic modification, touted as beneficial, may have unseen repercussions.

CONTACT: Purdue University News Service, (765)494-2096, http://news.uns.purdue.edu.