E-Waste: Facts and Stats
Old and broken electronics (i.e phones, computers, laptops ect.) are now the fastest growing municipal waste stream in America. While most other forms of waste are decreasing, e-waste (as it is commonly called) is increasing by about 5% each year. While most of us don’t think twice about throwing our old gadgets in the trash, environmentalists, local governments, and even the United Nations have identified e-waste as a global problem with dangerous consequences.
The average person keeps a laptop computer for about 3 years, a cell phone for about 18-22 months. Anywhere from 80-85% of these and other electronic devices end up in curbside waste bins at the end of their gadget life span. This creates between 20 and 50 million metric tons of e-waste every year. And while this number itself is alarming, the repercussions are even more so.
E-Waste: The 3 Main Problems
1) Materials such as lead, mercury, zinc, cadmium, and flame retardants, and more, are common in many of today’s electronic devices. Once broken down, these materials leak dangerous toxic substances that our landfills are not equip to handle. As a result, they end up in our air and water supply. If left in a landfill, just one cell phone has the potential to pollute up to 40,000 gallons of water. These pollutants have been linked to health problems including: birth defects, brain, liver, heart, kidney and nervous system disorders. In the United States, electronic devices make up 2% of landfill trash, but 70% of overall toxic waste found within these landfills
2) Electronic devices are made by a host of different materials including heavy metals. Every cell phone, for example, contains trace amounts of copper, silver, gold, and palladium. These metals are minded from land all over the world – which is often a source of both social and environmental problems. Throwing out your old phone means these precious metals are lost forever. For every 1 million cell phones that are recycled, 35,274 lbs of copper, 772 lbs of silver, 75 lbs of gold, and 33 lbs of palladium can be saved. The more we recycle our old electronic devices, the less we need to mine and manufacture virgin material.
3) By recycling old gadgets, you significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Because the manufacturing of a gadget requires the bulk of it’s energy needs (yes, even more so than using it), recycling old devices significantly reduces green house gas emissions. For example, It takes 539 lbs of fossil fuel, 48 lbs of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water to manufacture one computer and monitor. The EPA estimates that recycling one million computers prevents the release of greenhouse gases equivalent to the annual emissions of over 17,000 cars.
E-Waste: Recycling and Disposal in NY
With technology changing at such a rapid pace, what you bought today will probably become e-waste in the next 1-5 years. And while New York City just passed legislation which makes it illegal to put e-waste in the garbage, Long Island does not have laws that regulate the disposal of old electronics. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should . There are many ways to get rid of your old gadgets in Long Island. And here at GadgetRx, we will even buy them from you so we can refurbish and/or recycle the parts – and save the earth.