In fact, Hewlett-Packard, based in Palo Alto, Calif., said last week that it would expand its recycling program for personal computers and other electronic devices to one billion pounds over three years. The company, the nation's No. 2 computer maker after IBM Corp., has recycled 500 million pounds of electronic waste since 1987.
One billion pounds is equal to about 400,000 passenger cars, H-P said.
The Maryland Department of the Environment's also has a calendar of eCycling events, an electronics-refurbishing and recycling program. Equipment is collected at municipal centers, retailers and charities.
Maryland collected 861 tons of electronic equipment through these events from Oct. 1, 2001, through Dec. 31, 2002. About 99 percent of the machines were recycled, officials said.
The eCycling events were so successful that the Maryland General Assembly recently passed legislation requiring the state environment agency to study whether to establish a permanent electronic waste-collection system statewide.
"The idea came out of the fact that electronics have hazardous substances in them, so we want to make sure we dispose of them in an environmentally safe way," said state Rep. Elizabeth Bobo (D-Howard), the bill's co-sponsor. "Put that together with the fact that businesses -- and even more importantly individuals and families -- have two, three, four computers in their basement and can't find anyone to take them."
The best solution to the problem is environmentally friendly equipment, Naylor said.
"The EPA is working with manufacturers to take a look at using e-friendly computers," he said. "The federal government, being the largest computer purchaser in the world, is developing standards where we procure and look for the best environmentally designed computers. We believe this helps move manufacturers in the direction they need to go."
Consumers should buy computers with fewer toxins, Naylor said, as well as have recycled parts. Companies also should offer leasing or take-back options. While such environmentally friendly machines may cost more, some might be willing to pay extra. Others may not because such machines often contain used parts, he said.
"A lot of people, when they realize they have harmful components in their computers, would pay more to help the environment," Naylor said. "I think that definitely some would, but not everyone."
He added that many organizations could use recycled equipment.
"School districts accept computers that are a few years old because they think it is better than having no computer at all," Naylor said. "You can extend the life of a computer by donating it to an organization -- and when it is ready for disposal, you can get it into a recycling program."
On such effort is the Phoenix Project of the Maryland Education Department. The project refurbishes donated computers and provides them to individual students, schools and education-based community groups. The effort receives a number of its machines from a program sponsored by the Maryland Highway Administration.
The highway administration is required to recycle a certain portion of its waste, donating thousands of computers because it upgrades its equipment at regular intervals.
"We have a four-year replacement cycle for the computers, a six-year replacement cycle for our printers, and a three-year replacement cycle for our servers," said David Buck, an administration spokesman.
Buck estimated that the Phoenix Project received 871 of the 2,117 computers the agency donated to schools statewide last year. Those contributions help the Phoenix Project give away 2,000 machines every year -- and more than 20,000 since its inception in 1993.
"We gave 600 computers to Carroll County, which they put in every middle school that wasn't a brand-new school," said Darla Strouse, the education department's executive director of corporate sponsorships. "Their science classrooms are just replete with computers -- and they have adopted a whole software-system approach to teaching. Probably every community has gotten computers from us."
Whether it's recycling, donating or storing machines -- the problem of what to do with aging computer equipment cannot be ignored, said Fevenko, the Jessup computer salvager.
"If it's not done, and everyone doesn't get on this bandwagon, you're going to mess this environment up worse than it already is," he said. "And it's getting bad out there."