Eco-Living Magazine

The Importance of Recycling Electronics

Posted on the 17 October 2011 by T_mackinnon @tedmackinnon

3777182006 ffb05c20a3 The Importance of Recycling Electronics

Electronics are among the most basic of necessities for all Americans. Virtually every home has multiple computers, televisions and cell phones. Unfortunately, the constant creation of the next “latest and greatest” gadget leads to immense turnover of outdated devices. Older devices often contain materials that can be recycled, but also can contain harmful toxic waste. Even something as innocent as a garage door opener can harm our environment when not recycled correctly. Improper disposal can lead to health concerns as well, which is why proper electronic recycling is crucial.

Electronics and Toxic Waste

Many of today’s electronic gadgets contribute toxic waste if not disposed of correctly. An old tube television has up to eight pounds of lead in it. When not recycled properly, that lead finds its way into our landfills, and could potentially leak into our soil and water. Older CRT computer monitors have lead as well, and the screen’s fluorescent tube contains mercury. Computer circuit boards contain cadmium and lead, with the former known as a human carcinogen. Earth 911 also says that cell phone casings have lead, and older cell phones were made with nickel/cadmium batteries. Even newer batteries are made using lithium, which has been known to be explosive.

Electronics and our Landfills

Discarded electronics account for as much as two percent of our nation’s solid waste. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that over 50 million computers become outdated and are replaced each year. For the year 2007, 18 percent, or 414,000 tons worth of electronic devices were properly recycled, which leaves 82 percent, or 1.84 million tons that were tossed out, and most likely found their way into our landfills. Earth 911 estimates that 70 percent of the heavy metals and 40 percent of the lead in our landfills came from electronics.

Recycling and Emissions

Residents of the United States currently own over 3 billion electronic gadgets and devices. Recycling these products, rather than tossing than out, can drastically reduce the emissions released during the manufacturing of these items.

The EPA states the following

“Recycling at least one million laptop and desktop computers each year would lessen the greenhouse gases released, equivalent to if we took over 16,000 passenger vehicles off the road for the year.”

How do you Recycle Electronics?

The EPA created a countrywide recycling program for electronics called “eCycling.” With this program, retailers and electronics manufacturers are encouraged to promote recycling events or take-back programs for outdated electronics. Even more important is making sure that the recycler you choose is fully certified and will follow all industry standards. Some centers will only recycle a small portion of each device, while other reputable centers will reuse over 90 percent.

Photo Credit: anitakhart – Flickr

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