The term e-waste refers to any electronic device or system that has reached the end of its useful lifecycle and is due for recycling or trashing. Although recycling of electronics is available in most cities across the United States, e-waste is still a big and growing problem as Americans rely more and more on electronic devices and upgrade to the newest model more frequently than ever before. According to Green Peace, e-waste accounts for 5% of most city's solid waste.
The Externalities of E-Waste
The core problem of e-waste that differentiates it from other forms of junk found in a landfill is about their chemical composition and what happens to those chemicals go over time. Electronics contain a variety of chemicals not found in other items: lead, mercury, cadmium, silicon, gold. silver, copper, platinum, and chromium, to name a few. When electronic devices are thrown into landfills these chemicals find their way into the soil, groundwater, and also release greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to the negative effects of climate change.
Many of these chemicals are essential raw materials (like gold, copper, etc mentioned above) which, if not recycled, have to be extracted from nature.
According to the NCSL, the average American owns 24 electronic devices, including refrigerators, televisions, laptops, computers, cell phones, kitchen appliances, and more. Less than 20% of discarded electronics are recycled, contributing to a growing e-waste problem.
Disposing of Electronics Properly
Recycling should be the #1 go-to solution if e-waste concerns you. Many states and cities have laws regulating the proper disposal of certain kinds of electronics and many companies abide by these rules. Call a waste removal company local to you and ask how they dispose of certain electronics. For a fee, many companies will take your electronics to a local recycling center. You can also donate your electronics to charity.
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