About 1.5 to 1.9 million tons of used or unwanted electronics were dumped into landfills in 2005. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates just 345,000 to 379,000 tons of that so-called e-waste was recycled.
That’s a lot of landfill space. It’s also a health hazard, which is why 23 states have passed legislation that requires consumers to dispose of electronic waste properly.
Recently New York passed one of the most strict laws: “Starting in April 2011, manufacturers across the state must offer free programs allowing consumers to drop off their items for proper disposal. Manufacturers will also be prohibited from dumping e-waste in landfills. That same rule will go into effect for consumers starting Jan. 15, 2015.”
Read on to discover why throwing out electronics is bad for you and the environment. Plus, check out the related links and learn how you can reverse the damage.
They may be small, but cell phones' circuitry, batteries, and liquid crystal displays can contain toxins like arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, copper and lead. Their plastic casings have also been treated with brominated flame retardants, which may increase cancer risks. More than 100 million cell phones are retired each year.
Cathode ray tubes (CRTs), the leaded-glass picture tubes found in color computer monitors and television sets, are considered hazardous when discarded because of the presence of lead (about 4 pounds of lead per appliance). CRTs become a problem when the monitors or TV screens are broken and lead seeps into groundwater.
While laptops use less energy than desktop computers, they are similarly harmful to landfills. Their keyboards (and mice) rest upon circuit boards often covered in groundwater-poisoning lead. Their compact bodies are shaped from plastic treated with coatings (such as brominated flame retardants), paints, foams and labels.
It takes between 400 and 1,000 years for a single toner cartridge to break down in a landfill site. Additionally, such high-end electronics are made with valuable, often non-renewable resources such as precious metals, engineered plastics and glass.