Electronic waste, or e-Waste, is composed of almost all types of electrical and electronic equipment that have reached the product end of life cycle and been discarded by businesses and consumers. Rapid growth and product innovations in information and communication technology, such as cell phones and tablets, have led to frequent turnaround cycles for electronic devices. As a result, e-Waste has become the fastest growing waste stream in the world. According to the United Nations, the global community produces a total of 40 million tons of e-Waste every year and estimates indicate that this volume could triple over the next five years.
The EPA estimates that 150 million, or four cell phones per second, ends up in U.S. landfills each year and that e-Waste is responsible for 70 percent of the toxic substances in our landfills today. The lead leached from one cell phone’s lithium ion battery in a landfill can contaminate up to 40,000 gallons of water.
Without proper management, the toxins from e-Waste can cause serious health and environmental hazards. For example, a single cell phone contains many toxic substances including mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic beryllium and brominated flame retardants. These hazardous toxins have been found to cause cancer, reproductive disorders, endocrine disruption and other major health issues. When burned, the hazardous material creates some of the most toxic substances known to humankind, such as halogenated dioxins and furans.
Responsibly recycling e-Waste protects the environment by preventing hazardous material from entering and polluting the ecosystem and our communities. Enterprises can reduce e-Waste by donating or selling used cell phones, tablets and other electronic devices to asset recovery companies that will securely reuse devices that retain value or safely recycle devices that cannot be repaired. However, be careful of the electronics-recycling partner that you choose.
Try to work only with electronics recycling companies that are e-Stewards certified. The EPA estimates that 70 to 80 percent of electronics recycling companies in the U.S. directly or indirectly export e-Waste into “toxic wastelands” in developing countries. e-Steward’s certified electronics recyclers adhere to the highest global standards for environmental protection and worker safety and strictly prohibits the export of e-Waste into developing countries.
Assisting organizations in taking a more responsible, secure and profitable approach to wireless recycling, e-Cycle purchases used cell phones and tablets that still retain value and recycles all others at no charge through an EPA-registered facility. A rigorous multi-step data deletion process permanently removes confidential data stored on these devices. Not only does e-Cycle maintain a strict zero landfill policy, their e-Stewards Certification also ensures dedication to upholding the highest global standards for environmental responsibility. For more information on responsible cell phone recycling, visit www.e-Cycle.com.
For more information on e-Waste, also see “How to Resolve the E-Waste Challenge,” by Dr. Moses Amweelo.