Electronic waste, or e-waste, is a term for electronic products that have become unwanted, non-working or obsolete, and have essentially reached the end of their useful life. Because technology advances at such a high rate, many electronic devices become “trash” after a few short years of use. In fact, whole categories of old electronic items contribute to e-waste such as VCRs being replaced by DVD players, and DVD players being replaced by blu-ray players. E-waste is created from anything electronic: computers, monitors, cell phones, PDAs, VCRs, CD players, fax machines, printers, etc.
Obsolete electronic devices are rapidly filling the landfills of the globe. In New Zealand alone, more than 100 thousand computers are thrown away with less than 20% being recycled properly. Most electronics that are improperly thrown away contain some form of harmful materials such as beryllium, cadmium, mercury and lead. These materials might be trace elements, but when added up in volume, the threat to the environment is significant. Besides adding harmful elements to the environment, improper disposal of e-waste is a recycling opportunity lost. Almost all electronic waste contains some form of recyclable material, including plastic, glass and metals.
Help solve the e-waste problem
Solving the e-waste problem starts with education, and habit changes as a result of knowledge. Most people are trained to recycle a newspaper, bottles, and cans. Almost anything electronic in nature can be recycled properly with effort. Some municipalities have transfer stations that accept e-waste, and of course, e-pickup accepts e-waste for recycling. It is important that any e-waste processor is fully certified in safe destruction and follow certified documented procedures to safely dispose of electronic waste. Ask questions before you recycle! Some unscrupulous recyclers ship e-waste overseas where it is disposed of improperly, posing a threat to the environment and its’ people.