Electronic -waste or e-waste refers to all electronic goods that end up in the garbage. E-waste is two percent of the waste found in all landfills in America. The toxicity released from these discarded goods amounts to 70 percent of toxic waste in the country. Many e-waste items can easily be reused or recycled preventing this toxicity.
The actual amount of e-waste on the planet is widely debatable due to the scope of the term’s definition. Some people consider appliances, like microwaves, as types of e-waste, while others claim that only more modern, technological items such as computers and cellular phones are considered waste. All of these items have the potential to be hazardous to the public. In some states, the cathode ray tubes in both computer monitors and televisions are listed as hazardous materials that should be handled with care.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, e-waste is the fastest-growing type of municipal waste in the United States. Every year, between 20 and 50 million tons of e-waste are dumped around the world. In the United States landfills alone, more than 4.6 million tons of e-waste was accumulated during 2000 alone. Although countries in Europe have introduced laws to eliminate e-waste, the United States is not alone in generating this massive amount of waste. In Hong Kong, 10 to 20 percent of computers end up in landfills as well. Many developed countries also violate international law by exporting their electronic discards to lesser developed nations.
Environmental and Health Impact
When e-waste breaks down over time several harmful chemicals are released in the air. Mercury, lead and cadmium are some of the particularly harmful heavy metals that end up in the atmosphere. Flame retardants and beryllium are also contaminants of concern. These toxic substances end up in the human food chain eventually, presenting alarming harms to the environment, animal and plant health, and human health. Some of the most dangerous items that emit these toxins include LCD displays from televisions, laptop and desktop computers. Plasma television sets and portable CD players are also among the top gadgets with the biggest environmental impact.
Recycling E -Waste
Although less than 13 percent of all e-waste is recycled, recycling can save an amazing amount of energy and resources. By recycling just one million cellular phones, 75 pounds of gold can be recovered. The same number of recycled cellular phones provides more than 35,000 pounds of copper, as well as more than 700 pounds of silver. When one million laptops are recycled, the energy saved is comparable to the electricity used in more than 3,000 homes in an entire year. VCRs, audio-visual equipment, stereos and other electronics are also recyclable.
Recycling e-waste is simple. Recycling a cell phone with Cell Phones for Soldiers will not only keep harmful materials out of landfills but will also help our troops call home. Most communities offer an electronic recycling program to residents. Contact your local government to find out about electronic recycling programs in your neighborhood. There are also office supply stores and online companies that offer recycling services.