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.
This phenomenon is not limited to computers. Each day, various types of consumer electronics are constantly being upgraded or completely scrapped in favor of technological advancements. In the process, scores of old VCRs, walkman cassette decks and bulky video cameras become what is known as “e-waste” or electronic waste.
Americans have amassed an enormous amount of electronic devices—an estimated three billion in total. Given the large amount of potential products involved, e-waste includes a broad range of electronic 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, CRT-based computer and 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. Some manufacturers have even referred to e-waste as a valuable source of materials.
With an increasing array of environmentally-friendly options now available, people should consider recycling or donating their old electronic devices. With either choice, we can reduce the amount of e-waste and actually put our old items to good use.
More information about recycling electronics:
- E-Waste Harmful Materials
- Proper Disposal and Recycling of E-Waste
- How Electronics are Recycled
- Ultimate Recycling Guide
Content provided by Earth 911, the leading nationwide directory of local recycling resources.
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