What Is E-Waste?
E-waste is short for electronic waste, or electronic products that are nearing the end of their life cycle. This could be due to multiple factors, including the aggressive commercial output of new and advanced electronics, some type of damage caused to the product over time, or a gradual decline of performance.
Electronic waste has trailed modern civilization since Edison’s time. Yet, the amount of e-waste has increased exponentially in the last few years. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tells us that e-waste is the fastest growing waste stream for urban areas. Statista conducted a survey in 2020 stating that the amount of electronic devices per U.S. household had risen to 10. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, alongside more people working remotely, it’s expected that this number could double by the end of 2021.
The Importance of E-Cycling
If properly disposed of, most e-waste can be recycled. For instance, rare earth minerals in computers may be reused endlessly.
Most e-waste isn’t broken either. They simply require a bit of technical tweaking to be useful—perhaps for low-income students and other non-profit community programs. Unfortunately, many people are simply unaware of the importance of properly disposing of our gadgets and computers.
Mercury, nickel, lead, cadmium, and numerous other poisonous materials are required to build computers and their peripheral devices such as printers, mice, and keyboards. When left in dumpsters, by the side of the road, or just dumped into regular trash cans, such e-waste is liable to leak these noxious substances into nearby ecosystems.
Repurposing e-waste saves precious resources that would otherwise be needed to build virgin products. The EPA estimates that recycling a single laptop saves the same amount of energy that would be used by 3,657 homes in a whole year!
Electronic gadgets aren’t going away any time soon. It has become normal for consumers to individually own 3 or 4 electronic devices. Electronics also have a fairly short lifespan – most computers tend to be outdated within 5 years of purchase. Globally, we create 50 million tons of e-waste each year. In this context, it is more important than ever that consumers and business leaders properly dispose of electronic equipment.
Hazardous waste disposal companies now refer to this as e-cycling, or electronics recycling. Let’s take a closer look at the environmental threats that e-waste poses. We’ll also discuss how to correctly dispose of unwanted electronics.
Consequences of Improper E-Waste Disposal
Why not just tip that outdated TV or computer into the dumpster? Because doing so puts human and environmental health at risk. Electronics contain poisonous heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and beryllium. If your old computer monitor or television is dumped into your local landfill, it threatens to taint nearby ecosystems through the soil and air.
Another potential outcome is that your e-waste will be exported to a developing country, where people are so desperate for work that they’re willing to expose themselves to noxious chemicals during the dismantling process. E-waste often contains small amounts of precious metals, including gold, silver, and copper. However, in order to extract these materials, workers must burn or melt electronic components. In addition to slowly poisoning the dismantlers, these toxic substances quickly turn up in nearby environments.
Properly Dispose of Your E-Waste With WasteXpress
Locate local e-cycling experts who can provide evidence that they’re following safe dismantling procedures. Many processors claim to “recycle” e-waste, but in reality they’re just shipping it to nations like India and China for cheap, deadly dismantling by hand. There are plenty of online resources for sourcing local, genuine e-recyclers. You’ll also want to check with your state and municipal governments for local recycling centers.
One last tip, protect yourself and your business by removing and cutting up SIM cards and erasing all sensitive information and data. Make sure to back up all of your memory to the cloud or an external hard drive.
For professional help with disposing of your e-waste, contact WasteXpress. We take pride in providing over 32 years of environmentally friendly, hazardous waste disposal services to businesses, schools, and facilities across the Pacific Northwest. Our focus is ensuring that our work is done the way you want it, safely, compliantly, on time, and on budget.