eWaste is the popular term for discarded electronic products such as computers, VCRs, cameras, cell phones, keyboards, handheld devices, and the associated peripheral devices that are frequently discarded or replaced due to upgrades or changing technology standards.

It’s to recycle E-waste for several reasons.

First, when electronics are thrown into landfills it releases toxic chemicals, carcinogens and heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, chlorinated solvents, dioxins and brominated flame retardants, into the air, water and soil. When some of these toxins are burned at low temperatures they create more toxins such as halogenated dioxins and furans – some of the most toxic substances known to humankind. These toxins can cause different kinds of cancers, reproductive disorders, and many other health problems.  Most of these toxins are made up of elements which means although they change forms they will never disappear. Instead they will accumulate in the biosphere and in the food chain.

Second, recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, saves energy, and saves resources by extracting fewer raw materials from the earth.

To add to that problem, most companies that claim to recycle don’t do it responsibly.

According to Basel Action Network (BAN)  (http://e-stewards.org/the-e-waste-crisis/) An estimated 70-80% of the e-waste that’s given to recyclers is exported to less developed countries. Once there, primitive technologies such as open air burning and riverside acid baths are used to extract a few materials. The rest of the toxic materials are usually dumped. Unlike other countries in the world, the U.S. sends a significant portion of its hazardous e-waste to U.S. prisons to process in less-regulated environments without the worker protections and rights afforded in the private sector. Moreover, such operations amount to government subsidies, undermining the development of responsible private-sector recycling infra-structure and distorting the economics of recycling.

The Solution?

Find a responsible recycler that has been certified by e-stewards http://e-stewards.org/find-a-recycler/

I got the following statistics from www.dosomething.org

1. The nation now dumps between 300 million and 400 million electronic items per year, and less than 20% of that e-waste is recycled.

2. E-waste represents 2% of America’s trash in landfills, but it equals 70% of overall toxic waste. The extreme amount of lead in electronics alone causes damage in the central and peripheral nervous systems, the blood and the kidneys.

3. Because computer processing power doubles roughly every two years, many old computers are being abandoned. Only 15% recycle their computers, which means the other 85% end up in landfills.

4. It’s energy efficient to rebuild old computers, but only about 2% of PCs ever find their way to a second user.

5. About 50 millions cell phones are replaced worldwide a month, and only 10% are recycled. If we recycled just a million cell phones, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking 1,368 cars off the road for a year.

6. Flat panel computer monitors and notebooks often contain small amounts of mercury in the bulbs used to light them.

7. Cathode ray tubes in older TVs and computers typically contain about 4 lbs of lead and sometimes as much as 7 lbs.

8. The European Union banned e-waste from landfills in the 1990s, and current laws hold manufacturers responsible for e-waste disposal.

9. Large amounts of e-waste have been sent to countries such as China, India and Kenya, where lower environmental standards and working conditions make processing e-waste more profitable. Around 80 % of the e-waste in the U.S. is exported to Asia.

10.             E-waste legislation in the United States is currently stalled at the state level. Just 24 states have passed or proposed take-back laws. However, as of January 1, 2011, covered electronics are completely banned in West Virginia.

11.             Electronic items that are considered to be hazardous include, but are not limited to:

  • Televisions and computer monitors that contain cathode ray tubes
  • LCD desktop monitors
  • Laptop computers with LCD displays
  • LCD televisions
  • Plasma televisions
  • Portable DVD players with LCD screens.

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