The disposal of e-waste, or electronic waste, is an issue with which the modern world has slowly come to terms. The Global E-waste Statistics Partnership (GESP) – an organization that collects and collates worldwide statistics on e-waste – calculated that in 2019 the United States generated about 6.92 million metric tons (approximately 7.63 million standard tons) yearly on its own, or about 21 kg (over 46 lbs.) per capita. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that consumer goods’ waste was almost 2.45 million metric tons (2.7 million standard tons). Knowing how to dispose of e-waste like obsolete televisions, stereo equipment, mobile phones, DVD players, computers and other antiquated electronic equipment properly helps ensure toxic waste does not pollute our environment, helps companies comply with regulations, and even keeps personal data secure.
Importance of Disposing of E-Waste Properly
Not only is e-waste hazardous to humans, but failing to dispose of it properly can poison the environment, contaminating soil, groundwater and even off-gassing toxins into the air. These toxic elements within e-waste can also harm animals and plants.
Toxins in E-Waste
Here are just a few of the hazardous materials present in e-waste:
Found in fluorescent tubes, tilt switches for mechanical doorbells, in thermostats, flat screen monitors and other electronic components, mercury can cause serious health issues, including neurological and behavioral disorders, kidney problems, cognitive and motor dysfunction, headaches, insomnia, memory loss and neuromuscular issues.
A common material in television screens and computers, exposure to high lead levels can result in digestive, nervous system and reproductive issues. Lead also interferes with the functioning of the brain and kidneys.
Cadmium and Lithium
Common in batteries, both elements are volatile and potentially explosive, along with causing cancer.
Regulations & Other Legal Reasons
Knowing how to dispose of e-waste can cause more trouble than just polluting the environment. Numerous federal, state and local governments in the United States and elsewhere regulate the disposal of e-waste. Not disposing of e-waste properly can lead to hefty fines, not to mention bad press for businesses that do so. Before disposing of old electronics, it is important to become familiar with requirements for e-waste disposal.
Throwing out old computers and smartphones can lead to other legal risks, as discarding such e-waste may violate laws concerning data security. It’s important to erase or overwrite files before discarding these items to avoid the possibility of identity theft. Destroying data on devices can keep sensitive data safe. Numerous companies and consultants additionally have the expertise to delete data appropriately before safely recycling devices.
How to Dispose of E-Waste
The proper disposal of e-waste became an issue in the mid-1970s in the United States, resulting in the passage in 1976 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which made the dumping of e-waste illegal. Recycling electronic components has become an increasingly important issue the more e-waste is generated. Some methods to reduce, reuse and recycle e-waste include:
- Cloud computing involves storing and managing data on third-party servers with Internet connectivity. It helps businesses reduce e-waste by lessening the demand for electronic hardware used to store data or run software applications. It additionally translates into cost savings in reduced maintenance, insurance premiums, physical security, space required and even energy usage.
- Third-party electronics recyclers offer a means by which businesses can meet local, state and federal regulations for the disposal of e-waste. Such companies process waste using the most economical and ecological methods possible.
- Creating a recycling culture in an organization is a great way to heighten enthusiasm for the reuse and recycling of e-waste. Educating employees and other stakeholders on the issue can maximize participation. Making people aware of the environmental impact can encourage assessing and auditing electronic equipment to curb the urge to replace rather than restore.
- Trading-in old equipment when upgrading technology can take away the onus from the consumer. For manufacturers, trade-in policies on older electronic equipment have become popular, provide good publicity for a business, and keep customers coming back.
- Local disposal programs have been established in many states to deal with the issue of e-waste, the first being California’s Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003. Today, twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have e-waste recycling programs in place. Additionally, many retailers and municipalities accept outdated electronics.
- Donating unwanted but useful electronic devices to local schools, non-profit organizations, community centers or disadvantaged populations can help provide a positive social and educational impact. One example, EcoPhones, collects tablets and smartphones (among other things), marking 80 percent of these items for re-use, while the rest are recycled for their precious metals.
To learn more about the waste generated by electronic components, please contact us at Solid State Inc. today!