Wednesday, June 24, 2009



Erase the effects of e-waste

Electronic Recycling 1When it comes to electronic gadgets, Americans can’t get enough. We want – no, need – to be connected at all times. We must have the latest and greatest electronics. And who wouldn’t opt for the brand new digital, plasma screen T.V. when it often costs much more to repair that ancient hunk-of-junk in the garage than it does to buy a brand new one? But what happens to that analog boob-tube when you have decided you would rather surf atop the digital wave? It is quite likely that the electronic devices you deem unworthy will end up in landfills. Your “old” video equipment, televisions, computers, cell phones and other hand-held devices, audio equipment, and video games make up more than 2% of the municipal solid waste stream. I know what you’re thinking: “That doesn’t seem like very much”. Well, electronic waste – more commonly known as e-waste – is the fastest growing waste stream in America. And that modest 2% of the waste stream accounts for 70% of toxic waste according to In the year 2000 more than 4.6 million tons of e-waste entered the landfill from America alone, and by 2007 the number almost doubled (2). Even those who believe they are doing the earth a favor by recycling their e-waste could be doing even more harm to the environment. Many companies who claim to recycle post-consumer electronics simply ship the e-waste off to developing countries with loosely-regulated recycling facilities unable to handle the toxic chemicals properly. We have a constant and insatiable appetite for new electronics, forcing countries like China, India and Pakistan to swallow our poisonous leftovers. To read more about global e-waste problems visit or

Fortunately, many computer manufacturers, TV manufacturers, and electronic retailers now offer take-back programs and sponsor legitimate recycling events. Although there are no federal laws in place regarding the management of e-waste, 19 states and New York City have passed some type of legislation to manage end-of-life electronics in a safer and more environmental way. You can view more information on state laws at

Top Tips

Electronic Recycling 2· Reduce – Do you really need that new cell phone, stereo, computer or TV? Although electronics are made to last years, many feel the need to buy new products as soon as they are available. And it seems as though companies are cranking out the next model before you even have a chance to snip your proof-of-purchase for that rebate. Basal Action Network (BAN), which is an organization that pushes for the U.S. to ratify the Basel Convention of international hazardous waste shipment, says at least 1 in 4 homes will trash their still-perfectly-good TV this year following the digital transition. Preventing waste by reducing electronic consumption is preferable to any waste management option.

· Reuse – While you are trying to find a purpose for your unused electronics, they are collecting dust in the garage. No, scratch that…the boxes they are in are collecting dust in the garage. Meanwhile, their useful life is wasting away until the time comes when you decide they need to be thrown away. Just because you had to have the newest Ipod or DTV doesn’t mean someone else won’t appreciate the perfectly good older model. Donating used electronics to schools, non-profit organizations, and low-income families is a great way to lengthen the life of electronic products and keep them out of the waste stream longer.

· Recycle – If a product is no longer in condition to be used, don’t just throw it away! There are precious parts and ingredients in electronic devices that can be recycled. The metal, plastics, batteries and packaging materials in products like cell phones can be used for new products. Metals like gold, silver, platinum, palladium, rhodium, copper, tin, lead, brass and zinc can be recovered and used for jewelry, plating, electronics, plumbing, automotive and art foundries.

Other Considerations

Electronic Recycling 3· E-waste pollution – It is important to be be careful where and with whom you send your e-waste to be recycled. Electronic equipment contains toxic compounds like lead, mercury, cadmium and brominated flame retardants that leak into soils and water supplies. Unfortunately, 50%-80% of e-waste is shipped to developing countries like China, India or Pakistan where recycling regulations are extremely loose if they even exist at all. The chemicals in e-waste are extremely harmful to the environment and cause severe health issues for the people living in surrounded areas. When recycling your e-waste, ensure that you are giving to a reputable and legitimate company. See these links for information on recycling e-waste:





…to you

· Anything that is just sitting in your home unused not only creates clutter, it collects dust, which is bad for your health. The National Safety Council ( estimates that 75% of all personal computers ever sold are now gathering dust. So, it’s likely that you have a computer adding to the clutter and amount of dust collected in your home. If you absolutely have to have the newest electronics, donating your old products (or recycling if they are no longer useful) will clear your home of clutter and help you and your family breathe cleaner and easier.

…to your wallet

· Curbing your appetite for new electronic gadgets will definitely save you money. By waiting longer to buy a product, you will probably discover that it becomes much cheaper in 6 months, or (and here is the more sustainable and environmental option) you really don’t need the unnecessary expense.

· Some recycling centers will pay you for your used products. The website claims to pay up to $75 for used cell phones.

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Donations to churches, schools, low-income families and non-profit organizations are tax-deductible. So donating your usable electronics will increase the useful life of a product as well as your tax-return.

…to the earth

· Reducing, reusing and recycling electronics limits the amount of e-waste generated and dumped into our landfills. It increases the collection and treatment of products with high precious metal content and prevents the release of hazardous materials into our ecosystems. Practicing safe and sustainable e-waste management conserves the earth’s limited resources by reducing raw material extraction and encouraging more sustainable approaches to manufacturing.

Works Cited

1. International Association of Electronics Recyclers Industry Report, 2006.

2. “Electronic Waste Management in the United States, Approach 1” Table 3.1 EPA530-R-08-009 US Environmental Protection Agency, July 2008.

3. “eCycling”. US Environmental Protection Agency, January 2009.

4. Palm, Erik. “DTV transition: Avoiding an e-waste ‘tsunami’”. Green Tech, June 2009.

5. Mayfield, Kendra. “E-Waste: Dark Side of Digital Age”. Wired, January 2003.

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