In the 1970s, Gordon E. Moore theorized that computer processing power doubles about every 18 months especially relative to cost or size. His theory, known as Moore's Law, has proved largely true. Thinner, sleeker, and faster computers have replaced the big boxes and monitors people once owned 10 years ago.
E-Waste accounts for 70 percent of overall toxic garbage.
This phenomenon is not limited to computers. Each day, various types of consumer electronics are constantly upgraded or scrapped in favor of technological advancements. In the process, scores of TVs, VCRs, cassette decks, CD players, cell phones and bulky video cameras become what is known as electronic waste (e-waste).
Americans amassed an enormous amount of electronic devices-an estimated three billion total. Given the large amount of potential products involved, e-waste includes a broad range of devices. Unfortunately, improper disposal of e-waste creates a significant burden on landfills because toxic substances can leach into the soil and groundwater. Absent recycling, the problem could escalate.
The total annual global volume of e-waste is expected to reach about 40 million metric tons. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that we generated 1.5 billion pounds of all kinds of e-waste in 2006. This includes an estimated 44 million computers and televisions.
This amount is likely to increase because e-waste is growing at three times the rate of other municipal waste. Although e-waste accounts for only one to four percent of municipal waste, it may be responsible for as much as 70 percent of the heavy metals in landfills, including 40 percent of all lead.
Certain items are particularly harmful. For instance, cathode ray tube (CRT) television monitors contain, on average, four to eight pounds of lead, a highly toxic heavy metal.
E-waste should not be considered "waste." It is a resource. Useful materials such as glass, copper, aluminum, plastic and other components can often be extracted and reused.
With an increasing array of environmentally-friendly options now available, consider recycling or donating old electronic devices. With either choice, we can reduce the amount of e-waste landfilled and put our outdated items to good use.