Electronic Waste Background
Americans own nearly 3 billion electronic products.
Electronics, such as video game systems, digital cameras, computers, mp3 players, DVD players, televisions, and cell phones are quickly becoming the most popular type of new purchase, whether it be as a gift for someone else or as a replacement for an older version of a similar product. In fact, electronics typically account for approximately 25% of gift sales during the holiday season. Unfortunately, a good majority of old electronics that are being replaced by newer versions are ending up in landfills- where pollutants can seep into groundwater, soil, and air- posing a serious threat to the environment and public health.
Electronic waste (e-waste) now makes up five percent of all municipal solid waste worldwide, nearly the same amount as all plastic packaging.
E-waste is a constantly growing component of the municipal solid waste stream because people are upgrading their mobile phones, computers, televisions, audio equipment and printers more frequently than ever before. Mobile phones and computers are causing the biggest problem because they are replaced most often. Continuously replacing, rather than repairing products, creates more waste, pollution, and uses more natural resources.
According to a report by The National Safety Council, in the U.S. alone there are an estimated 315 million outdated computers and over 500 million used cell phones. Currently, less than 11% of computers are being recycled, while the majority sit in warehouses or consumer households.
Along with computers, TVs, VCRs, cell phones, and monitors—an estimated 304 million electronics—were discarded in the U.S. in 2005, with about two-thirds of those still in working order, according to Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) estimates.
The benefits of reusing and recycling electronics are numerous. Reuse is a key strategy in decreasing the amount of waste entering landfills and incinerators, in turn decreasing air, land, and water pollution. Economically, businesses benefit from servicing and selling used goods, while consumers benefit from the savings gained by not having to purchase new items and by receiving money for their used goods. In addition, reuse and recycling reduce the health hazards caused by the manufacture and destruction of electronic materials.