The nation now dumps between 300 million and 400 million electronic items per year, and less than 20% of that e-waste is recycled. E-waste represents 2% of America's trash in landfills, but it equals 70% of overall toxic waste. The extreme amount of lead in electronics alone causes damage in the central and peripheral nervous systems, the blood and the kidneys.
Because computer processing power doubles roughly every two years, many old computers are being abandoned. Only 15% recycle their computers, which means the other 85% end up in landfills.
It’s energy efficient to rebuild old computers, but only about 2% of PCs ever find their way to a second user.
About 50 millions cell phones are replaced worldwide a month, and only 10% are recycled. If we recycled just a million cell phones, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking 1,368 cars off the road for a year.
Flat panel computer monitors and notebooks often contain small amounts of mercury in the bulbs used to light them.
Cathode ray tubes in older TVs and computers typically contain about 4 lbs of lead and sometimes as much as 7 lbs.
The European Union banned e-waste from landfills in the 1990s, and current laws hold manufacturers responsible for e-waste disposal.
Large amounts of e-waste have been sent to countries such as China, India and Kenya, where lower environmental standards and working conditions make processing e-waste more profitable. Around 80 % of the e-waste in the U.S. is exported to Asia.
E-waste legislation in the United States is currently stalled at the state level. Just 24 states have passed or proposed take-back laws. However, as of January 1, 2011, covered electronics are completely banned in West Virginia.
Electronic items that are considered to be hazardous include, but are not limited to: