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E-Waste: A Recyclable Resource

By Earth911 |
From computers to calculators, we collect a whole lot of electronic things. Learn the 101s of E-Waste and why it's in our best interest to curb our technological addictions.
Courtesy of Earth911 | Originally Published: 09/14/09

In the 1970s, Gordon E. Moore theorized that computer processing power doubles about every 18 months especially relative to cost or size. His theory, known as Moore's Law, has proved largely true. Thinner, sleeker, and faster computers have replaced the big boxes and monitors people once owned 10 years ago.

E-Waste accounts for 70 percent of overall toxic garbage.

This phenomenon is not limited to computers. Each day, various types of consumer electronics are constantly upgraded or scrapped in favor of technological advancements. In the process, scores of TVs, VCRs, cassette decks, CD players, cell phones and bulky video cameras become what is known as electronic waste (e-waste).

Americans amassed an enormous amount of electronic devices-an estimated three billion total. Given the large amount of potential products involved, e-waste includes a broad range of devices. Unfortunately, improper disposal of e-waste creates a significant burden on landfills because toxic substances can leach into the soil and groundwater. Absent recycling, the problem could escalate.

The total annual global volume of e-waste is expected to reach about 40 million metric tons. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that we generated 1.5 billion pounds of all kinds of e-waste in 2006. This includes an estimated 44 million computers and televisions.

This amount is likely to increase because e-waste is growing at three times the rate of other municipal waste. Although e-waste accounts for only one to four percent of municipal waste, it may be responsible for as much as 70 percent of the heavy metals in landfills, including 40 percent of all lead.

Certain items are particularly harmful. For instance, cathode ray tube (CRT) television monitors contain, on average, four to eight pounds of lead, a highly toxic heavy metal.

E-waste should not be considered "waste." It is a resource. Useful materials such as glass, copper, aluminum, plastic and other components can often be extracted and reused.

With an increasing array of environmentally-friendly options now available, consider recycling or donating old electronic devices. With either choice, we can reduce the amount of e-waste landfilled and put our outdated items to good use.

What do you do with your e-waste? Share your tips and suggestions below!

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  • Robert S. 1 year ago
    I have quite a few CRT monitors & TVs lying around my mom's garage/basement. I'm helping clean stuff out that isn't needed. Best Buy will take other electronics for free but charge for CRT monitors. Does anyone know how to find local recycling that will not charge for these items? Google has not helped very much with finding places that take them for free, and donation places like Goodwill don't take them.
  • Elaine F. 5 years ago
    I donate them.
  • RecycleBank M. 6 years ago
    i hope that you still share info as how we can send abandoned or lost cell phones to a place where the parts can be scavenged for re-use.
    please send this info to as i recently found an old ATT flip phone and hope to discard it in a useful manner.
  • Kathie and Anthony K. 6 years ago
    We have been taking apart the towers and saving the parts that are reusible at our Computer business but as everyone knows you can't get rid of the old monitors. Buisnesses have to charge to accept them. Many local city collections exist where someone has gotten a grant to accept these materials and dispose of them correctly. Check with your City to see if this is available. The metal components and some of the plastic cases are recycleable just take them apart and look for the recycle cymbols inside the cases. Memory, fans, aluminum heat exchangers are all recycleable. break them down yourself and see what's inside!
  • Traclyn C. 6 years ago
    Where can I recycle old blow dryers?
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