What is e-waste?

Electronic Waste (e-waste) or waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) means electrical or electronic equipment which is waste (wastes are all substances or objects which the holder disposes), including all components, subassemblies and consumables which are part of the product at the time of discarding. It includes computers and entertainment electronics consisting of valuable as well as harmful and toxic components.

E-waste has become an attractive business in developing and transition countries due to low incomes as well as loopholes in the law and its enforcement. This results in risky recycling methods with major impacts on the health of people and the environment. The extreme rate of obsolescence and increasing imports from industrialized countries cause severe problems in these countries.

Why should you recycle?

Why should you recycle computer parts and other electronic devices? This answer to the "Recycle Computer" question seems obvious. However, many people don't understand that our planet has been bombarded by an overwhelming amount of unwanted computers, peripherals, and other electronic devices. Many individuals are not concerned with the growing problem that we all face concerning buildup of computer parts and other electronic devices known as "E-Waste."

Land filling e-waste is harmful to the environment because substances such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury and nickel can leach out into the ground and water. These substances can be toxic and have been associated with serious diseases in children, such as cancer and neurological disorders.

What are the adverse impacts?

The global technological revolution is fueling the rapidly increasing e-waste recycling problem. The demand to effectively and safely recycle the obsolete electronics is pushed by the same demands our society imposes to manufacture the new, smaller, faster more efficient software. The environmentally safe disposal of e-waste has rampantly become a problematic issue over the past decade. Technological advances and legislation on all levels has vaulted e-waste recycling into an evolving multi-billion dollar a year industry.

The environmental concerns regarding e-waste stem from the many compounds that are known to have adverse impacts on the health of the environment all living beings. The following hazardous elements and compounds can be found in everyday e-waste:

  • Lead in cathode ray tubes and solder;
  • Mercury in switches and housing;
  • Arsenic in older cathode ray tubes;
  • Antimony trioxide as flame retardant;
  • Polybrominated flame retardants in plastic casings, cables, and circuit boards;
  • Selenium in circuit boards as power to supply rectifier;
  • Cadmium in circuit boards and semiconductors;
  • Chromium in steel as corrosion protection;
  • Cobalt in steel for structural strength and magnetivity.


credit: Francestown, NH Website