Electronic Waste

June 24, 2008 at 10:54 pm 1 comment

“Electronic waste” sounds like spam, but the term actually refers to the mountain of garbage created by discarded electronic devices each year. According to “A Tsunami of Electronic Waste,” C&E News, p. 32, May 26, 2008, the U.S.A. disposes of roughly 2,000,000 tons (4,000,000,000 pounds) each year. This works out to about 16 pounds per person per year.

Consumer electronics are laced with toxic materials of all sorts. The plastic case on your computer (TV, etc.) is impregnated with brominated flame retardants. The electronics inside may contain lead, cadmium, and a host of other toxic metals. Therefore, reuse and recycling are doubly important: 1) to limit the amount of waste flowing to landfills; 2) to make sure that the waste isn’t toxic since anything that goes to a landfill will eventually leach into the soil and groundwater.

Unfortunately, only about 15% is brought to a recycling/reuse center. The other 85% goes into landfills. Worse, most of the “recycled” waste (80%) is not actually recycled. It just gets sent overseas to some impoverished third-world country.

Everything new will one day be old. The next time you find yourself drooling over a cell phone or iPod sub-nano (pico?), ask yourself what you will do with it when its usefulness has ended.

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Entry filed under: In the News.

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