According to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), Americans now own approximately 24 electronic products per household. Dave Kruch, CEO of the re-commerce company Cash for Laptops, describes e-waste as a "rapidly expanding issue." And for good reason, it is estimated that fifty million tons of e-waste is generated yearly, with the United States contributing about three million tons on its own.
It Doesn't Stop There
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that only a meager 15-20% of e-waste is recycled or reused, the rest going into landfills and incinerators. And that percentage will increase without a global effort to stem the tide—a report by the UNPE titled 'Recycling- From E-waste To Resources' stated that the amount of e-waste being produced could increase by as much as 500% over the next decade in some countries.
What Makes It Dangerous?
With landfills constantly growing with e-waste, heavy metals and other hazardous materials have begun seeping into the soil, contaminating water, soil and air. One village in Guiyu, China, home to one of the largest e-waste dumps, was found to have road dust containing 300x the nationally recommended limit of lead, and 100x the amount of copper. Similarly, airborne dioxins were found at levels over 100 times those found in previous years. There are a wide range of hazardous materials found in electronic waste, some include: mercury, lead, americium, sulfur, cadmium, brominated chemicals, polyvinyl chloride and phthalates. Many present respirable hazards and are known carcinogens.
What Is The EPA Doing About It?
The EPA encourages everyone (including businesses) to limit ewaste through recycling and re-marketing programs, commonly referred to as eCycling. They have a specific page on their website under their resource conservation pages dedicated to eCycling. The EPA urges everyone to dispose of their old electronics properly by turning them over to the proper recycling operations where the electronics can be either broken down or possibly refurbished to go back on the market. The EPA advocates that “donating used electronics for reuse extends the lives of valuable products. Recycling electronics prevents valuable materials from going into the waste stream.”
There are many options to recycle or donate for reuse electronics. Many manufacturers and retailers offer take back program or sponsor recycling events. The majority of US States and many municipalities have laws on disposal and recycling of electronics as well has programs for eCycling.
The EPA warns, however, that “unfortunately not every electronic recycler follows environmentally sound recycling practices.” Always look for responsible electronics recyclers and refurbishers that are third party certified and meet available standards on responsible recycling practices. EPA encourages all electronics recyclers to become certified and all customers to choose certified recyclers.
Emilcott has been helping our clients meet EPA requirements for over 25 years. Please call if we can be of any assistance.