E-waste Crisis

e-Waste Crisis

The EPA estimates that, in 2015, the U.S. generated about 3.1 million tons of consumer electronic items and recycled about 1.25 million tons. More than 400 million obsolete electronic devices are discarded every year, a figure including at least 143,000 computers that Americans throw away every day. While advances in technology continue to improve and enrich our lives, product life cycles are getting shorter and shorter. This means there’s an increasing amount of outdated electronic equipment that needs to be recycled properly. When discarded, much of this equipment ends up in U.S. landfills or is exported to developing countries.
 
  • An average of 220 tons of electronic waste is dumped in landfills and incinerators every year in the U.S. alone.
  • Electronic waste constitutes only 2-3% of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream, but almost 70% of our toxic waste.
  • An estimated 50-80% of U.S. electronic waste collected for recycling is sent to Asia.
 
Electronic equipment contains harmful toxins which, when released into the environment, can contaminate drinking water, soil, and the atmosphere. Lead, mercury, cadmium, and flame-retardants are all persistent bioaccumulative toxins (PBTs) that cause birth defects and damage coronary, respiratory, nervous, and skeletal system function.
 
  • A single computer or television monitor contains an average of 6 pounds of lead.
  • Monitor glass by weight contains roughly 20% lead. When this glass is crushed in a landfill, the lead leeches out into the ground water.
  • Just 1/70 of a teaspoon of mercury is enough to contaminate a 20 acre lake, rendering the fish inedible
  • In the US, municipal incineration of electronic waste is the largest source of cancer-producing dioxins and is among the largest sources of heavy metal contamination in the atmosphere.
 

While there are many ways to dispose of unwanted electronics, there are few guarantees that the resulting electronic waste will be disposed of responsibly. Read more about how GreenCitizen is working to change the way electronics are discarded. Read More

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