There are thousands of electronic devices today that have made our lives easier and more convenient, even more enjoyable, but care must be taken when disposing of these items when they have outlived their usefulness. Many items like computers, laptops, printers, LCD and Plasma TVs, cell phones, and more contain hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, radioactive isotopes, dioxins, and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and having them end up in landfills can create major environmental hazards.
One of the biggest sources of hazardous materials in electronic devices is CRTs, such as the monitors used for desktop computers and older television sets. CRTs contain large quantities of lead, phosphorous, cadmium, barium and mercury that are safely sealed within the monitor but are let loose when the monitor is sent to a landfill. When the monitor is broken, these toxic materials can become an airborne hazard or leech into our water supply.
A typical monitor may contain several pounds of lead, most of it found in the CRT glass. Lead improves the optical quality of the glass, but more importantly it also acts as a shield against radiation from the inner workings of the monitor. Lead also may be found in circuit boards and other electronic equipment. Lead, however, is a poison, and lead poisoning can cause all sorts of health problems and can even lead to paralysis, coma, and death.
Disposing of electronic waste today is no small problem. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that of the 2.25 million tons of TVs, cell phones, and computer products ready for end-of-life disposal in 2007, only 414,000 tons (18 percent) were collected for recycling. The remaining 1.84 million tons (82 percent) were tossed aside with other solid waste, primarily in landfills.
The problem will grow as more and more new electronic products are offered in the future and today’s electronic products become outdated or obsolete. The average lifespan of a desktop computer, for instance, is only three-to-five years (though some people may keep them longer), and consumers barely keep a cell phone for more than two years before exchanging it for a more exotic model with more features. The obsolete equipment then adds to the amount of e-waste (electronic waste) that can become part of the system.
Rather than putting e-waste out with the trash, however, we can recycle it, giving it new life. The EPA states that recycling benefits us three ways:
- Recycling conserves natural resources through the recovery of valuable materials from old electronic equipment.
- Recycling protects our surroundings by keeping toxic materials out of the environment.
- Recycling helps those who cannot buy the newest technology by making equipment available to them they could not otherwise afford.
Consumers have several options when faced with recycling electronic equipment.
Donating electronics that are still in working condition is one. Such donations give schools, nonprofit organizations, and lower-income families access to equipment that otherwise would not be in their budget. The EPA lists organizations with information about donating electronic equipment on its website (www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/materials/ecycling/donate.htm).
Many manufacturers also offer recycling services. In some cases, the take-back offer may be good in limited areas or apply only to certain electronic equipment. One manufacturer offers recycling programs for printer supplies and computer hardware along with LCD or Plasma TVs, but it does not accept other equipment such as VCRs, DVDs, CRT televisions or any monitors with broken glass.
Atlanta Recycling Center gives you another option. We will pick up your obsolete equipment whether it is in working order or not. Atlanta Recycling Center also offers a one-of-a-kind mail-in service that allows you to mail smaller electronic items such as laptops, cell phones, ink cartridges, laptop batteries, and digital cameras to us at our expense. More information is available on this website.
We will do whatever repairs are needed to refurbish the equipment or use it for spare parts to repair other equipment. The EPA notes that extending the life of old equipment by refurbishing it for reuse is vital to reducing the amount of electronic waste in the waste system and reducing the environmental impact of these products.
Atlanta Recycling Center meets all three of the EPA goals listed above.
We use components extracted from some equipment to refurbish other items such as personal computers and laptops, and we offer a safe and responsible way for consumers to dispose of potentially toxic materials. Call us at (678) 379-5535 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org today for an appointment for us to pick up your obsolete electronic equipment. In many cases, pickup is free, or in outlying areas there may a nominal charge. For more information, see our services page.