How does electronics recycling help? One cell phone can contaminate one hundred fifty-eight gallons of water? Two and a half ounces of oil are used to make one ink-jet cartridge, and in 2004 the number of ink-jet cartridges thrown away, if stacked end-to-end, would circle the earth? In short, electronics recycling helps not only you, but everyone around you. It’s one of those things where what you do personally actually helps others.
Electronics recycling has been ramped up via rapid technology change, low initial cost, and planned obsolescence. This makes for a fast-growing surplus of electronic waste around the world. Electronic waste is a “rapidly expanding” problem. Technical solutions are available, but in most cases a bundle of prerequisites such as legal framework, a collection system, logistics, and other services need to be implemented before application of that technical solution. Whether its been applied or not, electronics recycling, in the present, helps.
In America, an estimated seventy percent of heavy metals in landfills comes from discarded electronics, while electronic waste represents only two percent of America’s trash in landfills. The EPA says that unwanted electronics totaled two million tons in 2005 and that discarded electronics represented five to six times as much weight as recycled electronics – hats off to electronics recycling! So it makes sense when the Consumer Electronics Association estimates that U.S. households spend an average of fourteen hundred dollars annually on an average of twenty-four electronic items, leading to speculations of millions of tons of valuable metals in desk drawers. Relative to this, the U.S. National Safety Council estimates that seventy-five percent of all personal computers ever sold are dust collectors – surplus electronics. Moving on to mobile phones, seven percent of cell phone owners still throw away their old ones. That’s a large market for electronics recycling on a national level.
The importance of electronics recycling is evident when taking a closer look at electronic waste. Up to thirty-eight separate chemical elements are incorporated in electronic waste. Many of the plastics used in electronic equipment contain flame retardants. These are typically halogens added to the plastic resin, making the plastics difficult to recycle. Because the flame retardants are additives, they easily leach off the material in hot weather. This causes a problem because when disposed of, electronic waste is normally left outside and the flame retardants leach into the soil. Recorded levels are ninety-three times higher than soil with no contact with electronic waste. The unsustainability of discarding electronics and computer technology is a great reason to advocate electronics recycling or re-using electronic waste.