Facts About Recycling E-Waste

Quick Facts
1.  Monitors and televisions with cathode ray tubes (CRTs) contain 2-4kg (4-8lbs) of lead on average.

2.  E-waste is the largest source of lead in solid waste.

3.  Circuit boards in computers and other electronics contain toxic materials like chromium, nickel, and zinc.

4.  Switches and liquid crystal displays (LCDs) may contain mercury.

5.  Batteries may contain nickel and cadmium.

6.  It is estimated that 70% of heavy metals in landfills comes from e-waste.

7.   E-waste represents about 2% of the total mass in landfills.

8.  An imploded cathode ray tube is very difficult and expensive to recycle.

9.  E-waste may contain carcinogenic substances including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

10.  E-waste is often exported (sometimes illegally) to developing countries including China, Malaysia, India, Kenya, and other African countries.  More lenient environmental regulations make it more profitable to process e-waste in these countries.

11.  About 80% (this figure is disputed) of the e-waste sent for recycling in the U.S. is actually packed on container ships and sent to countries such as China.

12.  Poor controls over e-waste recycling methods can cause groundwater contamination, air pollution, water pollution, and health effects in those directly involved.

13.  Greenpeace contends that residue from e-waste is so dangerous that the export of used electronics should be banned.

14.  Less than 20% of e-waste is recycled in the United States.

15.  E-waste can also contain valuable substances suitable for reclamation including copper and gold.

16.  Guiyu in China is the largest e-waste site on earth with an estimated 150,000 e-waste workers.  The average workday is 16 hours and the workers make about $1.50 per day by recovering valuable metals and parts from the waste.

Recycling E-waste

Electronic waste, also known as e-waste, is a new form of waste that came about with the production and advancement of technology. Due to the toxic components within electronic devices, including computers, televisions, and batteries, music devices, and mobile phones, there is a great need to recycle e-waste and keep it out of the environment.

An estimated 20 to 50 million tons of e-waste is dumped into landfills around the world every year.  As technology advances quickly and consumers constantly update their personal technology devices (e.g. smartphones, tablets, digital cameras), the amount of e-waste entering landfills is increasing daily.   Most consumers are not aware of the dangers resulting from disposing of their electronic items in the trash bin.  Electronic devices are loaded with toxic chemicals that, when in landfills, leak out into the environment and contaminate soil, water, and even the air.

A few of the many toxins found in e-waste include cadmium, barium, lead, phosphorous, and brominated flame retardants.

Many different materials make up electronic devices, including steel, aluminum, copper, gold, silver, and plastic, all of which can be recycled into new items. The electronic components, on the other hand, can often be refurbished and resold, thereby keeping them out of landfills.

Some municipalities and stores offer battery collections for recycling, while mobile phone companies may be willing to take an old cell phone to have it refurbished or recycled properly.  If one is trying to dispose of a large amount of e-waste it is worth doing some research beforehand.  They may find a manufacturer willing to pick up the waste and recycle it.

More articles about recycling e-waste:
Importance of Battery Recycling