Electronic waste toxic
Green-minded people wanting to recycle their e-waste should take the extra step, even if it means going out of town to do so.
"All electronics include toxic heavy metals and include other types of chemicals that if people handled on their own, could cause problems or expose them to things they shouldn't be exposed to," said Chet McLaughlin, environmental engineer for the Environmental Protection Agency. "Probably the most important argument to recycling electronics is that it makes our society much more efficient if we recycle old electronics into new electronics that we can all use an enjoy."
By recycling, experts say, consumers can do a lot for the environment. First, they can lessen their impact on landfills. Although electronics account for less than 2 percent of the municipal solid waste in the nation, that number is expected to grow if consumers continue to buy electronics at the current rate, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
In 2005, used or unwanted electronics, including computers and cell phones, amounted to about 1.9 million to 2.2 million tons of waste, according to the EPA. Of that, only 345,000 to 379,000 tons were recycled.
Recycling also helps keep toxins out of the environment. Many electronics, such as computer monitors, contain hazardous materials.
"That is what's most important to keep from the landfill," Richardson says.
For instance, an average of four pounds of lead can be found in computer monitors and older TV picture tubes, according to the EPA. The EPA also lists chromium, cadmium, mercury, beryllium, nickel and zinc as other toxic materials that can be found in electronics.