A New Category
Whether it breaks down, becomes outdated, or simply goes out of fashion, all electronics equipment will eventually be discarded. Unwanted electronics of any kind is known as e-waste. The safe disposal of these items, which can include appliances, computers, phones, and professional technical equipment, is a now significant concern around the globe.
Personal Electronics Timeline
Some form of consumer electronics has existed since as early as the late 1800s, when gramophones, telegraph machines, and early radio started to make their way into popular use. Home television sets became ubiquitous in the 1950s, and by the 1990s, the personal computer boom became equally widespread. In 2014, it is estimated that there are nearly 7 billion cell phones in active use.
The amount of e-waste has risen to meet these figures. U.S. consumers disposed of 2.4 million tons of e-waste in 2010 alone.
Dangers of E-Waste Disposal
Most e-waste contains component parts made from materials that could potentially emit toxic chemicals into the environment. When improperly disposed of, electronics equipment can release heavy metal particles into the soil and ground water. It’s important to send e-waste to a trustworthy facility. Unregulated e-waste recycling facilities may use processes like burning and chemical stripping to harvest components of electronics, and those processes may release gases like methane into the air.
Importance of Recycling Electronics
Many types of electronics equipment can be repaired and redistributed. Component metals like tin, aluminum, and iron can be removed and recycled into new manufacturing, reducing the need for additional mining. By recirculating these products via an e-recycling facility that avoids hazardous practices like burning and chemical stripping, the dangerous emissions associated with their improper disposal or dumping at landfills can be avoided.
How to Dispose of E-Waste
Many electronics retailers offer to take back unwanted electronics, sometimes in exchange for discounts on newer products. Additionally, many cities in the U.S. and Europe are now adopting e-cycling programs by law, offering safe disposal options, and penalties for improper disposal.