Electronic waste refers to business and consumer electronic equipment that is near or at the end of its usefulness. It includes devices or gadgets that can be plugged into an electrical outlet or that contain a circuit board or chips. Electronic waste cannot be disposed of like regular garbage that people can simply drop into a trash or recycle bin.
Examples of electronic waste include:
- Televisions, computer monitors, scanners, printers, mice, keyboards, cables, circuit boards, clocks, lamps, flashlights, phones, calculators, answering machines, cameras (digital or video), radios, DVD players, VCRs, MP3 players, and CD players
- Small kitchen appliances, such as coffee makers, microwave ovens, and toasters
- Laboratory equipment such as microscopes, calorimeters, and hot plates
- Television tubes (CRTs)
Federal and state laws require that electronic waste be handled and disposed of in a special manner. Electronic waste contains many toxic components which include mercury, cadmium, lead, barium, lithium, polybrominated flame retardants and polyvinyl chloride. These toxins can cause birth defects and damage to the brain, liver, heart, kidneys, and skeletal system. They can also significantly affect the reproductive and nervous systems.
Electronic waste makes up two to five percent of the total solid waste in the country. It is estimated that around 70 million old computers have been sent to landfills. Computer monitors have about five to eight pounds of lead each and comprise about 40 percent of the lead in our landfills. These pollutants can leech into our groundwater.
We can all help remedy the worsening pollution problem by responsibly disposing of electronic waste. Do not combine the waste with regular household garbage that will end up in the landfills. There are companies and government offices that pick up electronic waste for recycling or proper disposal. People can drop off their waste in collection facilities set up by private businesses or by the city government. The city trash collectors periodically schedule electronic waste pickup, separate from regular trash pickup.
It takes a little extra effort to dispose of electronic waste responsibly, but it goes a long way in protecting our environment.