Background on E-Waste

Electronic waste, or e-waste, is electronics equipment that isn't properly recycled. Computers, cameras and cell phones are filled with highly toxic materials, like lead, mercury, cadmium and brominated flame retardants. To make matters worse, much of our e-waste is recycled (often illegally) overseas using sub-standard methods that do more harm than good.

The amount of old electronics that are discarded every year is rapidly increasing. With lower prices and rapidly changing technology, computers, phones and TVs now have very short life spans. In many countries, e-waste is the fastest growing type of trash.

As electronics become part of the throw away culture in many developed countries, solutions to the problem have lagged far behind. In the U.S., there is very little regulation of e-waste. Currently less than 20% of U.S. e-waste is recovered for recycling - just 10% of PCs and 14% of TVs. And the upcoming switch to digital TVs is expected to make the problem worse - as people throw away their old televisions, the amount of toxic cathode-ray tubes in landfills will increase. The little e-waste that is recycled in the U.S. is often exported to Asia and Africa, where it's cheaper to process and recycle old electronics. This can pose health risks for people who dissemble the equipment overseas. Even in the European Union, which has tighter waste regulation, it's estimated that of the 8.7 million tons of e-waste created, only 2.1 million tons are recycled.

Sources

Green Peace International

National Geographic

Mother Jones