Anyone who is concerned with the environment should be concerned with recycling electronics.
The answer is it usually gets thrown away. This is sometimes called e-waste or electronic waste. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2.37 million short tons of electronics were discarded in 2009. Just like with paper and plastic, though, there is a better solution… Recycling.
The Environmental Problem
Electronics include laptops, desktops, monitors, keyboards, mice, televisions, printers, fax machines, scanners, copiers, cell phones, PDAs and pagers. They are made up of a variety of components and materials. Of concern are lead, nickel, cadmium, and mercury, all of which can cause health risks. These metals can leak into the ground or water.
Cadmium can interfere with the metabolism of calcium and consequently bone problems. Lead poisoning causes a wide variety of symptoms including neurological symptoms, paralysis, coma and death. Nickel can cause cancer. These are just a few of the potential problems.
In the U.S, 25 states have passed laws about e-waste. These laws make manufacturers responsible for the electronic devices that their customers recycle. These laws vary from state to state and are specific as to type of technology. Now companies can become certified for responsible recycling practices. Companies that donate computer equipment can take advantage of tax incentives.
Donating and Take Back Programs
Donating used electronics is a good option. This will extend the life of the electronics. Technically this is not recycling but preventing waste, which is even better than recycling. This practice also benefits society. You can donate your used electronics that still work to schools, nonprofit organization or lower-income families. Many electronic retailers have a program where they take back old electronics or they sponsor recycling events.
There are a number of benefits to recycling electronics including reducing pollution, energy and use of resources related to producing a new product. Almost all of the materials in a cell phone, for example, can be recovered and recycled. Metals such as gold, silver, platinum, palladium, copper, tin and zinc are recovered and used in different industries. The plastics as well as the rechargeable batteries are also reused.
If you want to find a program near you where you can donate your used electronics or where you can recycle them, you can search the web. Some good places to start are with Ecosquid, Earth 911, Electronic Industries Alliance’s Consumer Education Initiative, TechSoup and Call2Recycle Rechargeable Battery and Cell Phone Recycling Locations. Donating or recycling options include a county recycling drop-off center, repair shop, charitable organization, electronic recycling company, local electronic retailer or manufacturer.
If you are concerned with the environment, then you are in the right place. E-waste can cause a lot of problems and recycling electronics can help keep the environment clean.