I became consciously aware of e-waste – discarded TVs, monitors, computers, cell phones, batteries – when I lived in Germany. Germany has a very strict policy about trash and recycle, as do most countries in the European Union.
When I first arrived in country, I found it very frustrating! I had to separate everything, including biodegradable foods like veggie scraps. Initially, it took me a long time to divide out all the trash. But over time, the process got faster and my appreciation for Germany's earth-friendly regulations grew more and more.
After my European trash experience, you can imagine my surprise when I read this statistic in a recent Parade magazine: More than 1.5 million tons of e-waste are thrown into U.S. landfills every year.
The consequence of e-waste? Electronics are full of heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. For example, an old TV can contain between 4-8 pounds of lead; a big screen TV may have even more. These heavy metal toxins in trashed electronics are released into the air and water. All in all, about 40% of the heavy metals in landfills come from electronic equipment discards.
If you are trying to get organized and find that you are purging e-waste with your regular trash, I encourage you to read the short article from Parade magazine called "The Dangers of e-Waste." For a more in-depth look, check out the Electronics Take Back Coalition web page.
What are some steps you can take as a consumer to decrease e-waste?
(1) If it's working…
(a) Donate it to schools or nonprofit organizations.
(b) Give it someone you know who might be nursing really old equipment along, perhaps because they are frugal or perhaps because they cannot afford an upgrade. They will more than likely be happy to take the item off your hands.
(2) If it's broken…
(b) Send the item back to its manufacturer. Companies like Apple, Dell, and Sony will take back their products, although you may have to pay for shipping costs.