E-Waste Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Technology is in hyper-drive speed as it continues to advance. Because of these ongoing improvements, computers, printers, smartphones and other electronic items are finding their way to our landfills faster than ever. However, there are large amounts of dollars—billions, in fact—of recyclable materials in this e-waste that we can recoup if we take the necessary steps. Take a look at the staggering statistics that surround e-waste in this infographic. Need to properly dispose of e-waste at your workplace or home? See our blog on recycling old technology.

 

Discarded electrical appliances are called electronic waste, or e-waste. Computers, cell phones, TVs, refrigerators, monitors and microwaves are common e-waste items. Disposal of electronic items is one of modern society’s most critical environmental concerns. The issue is largely “out of sight, out of mind.” Here are the disturbing numbers and facts.

What is e-waste?
Any unwanted or obsolete electronic item – operational or not. Cell phones, televisions, VCRs, DVD players, stereos, copiers, fax machines, computers, monitors, CDs, etc.
Average e-waste produced every year The UN says 41.8 million tons of e-waste were produced last year worldwide.  90% was illegally traded, exported or dumped
On average each American generated 48 pounds of e-waste. (equivalent of every American throwing out 11 laptops every year)
Only 12.5% of total e-waste is recycled. The U.S. is the worst offender – 9.4 million tons/year
According to the EPA, recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent of electricity used by 3,657 U.S. homes in a year. Electronics are full of valuable resources such as silver, gold, titanium, fossil fuels, aluminum, iron, copper, and more.

Raw materials in e-waste
In 2014, $50 billion worth of recyclable materials was present in e-waste products.
Raw materials in single-year’s e-waste Silver $.3 Billion Palladium $1.8 Billion Aluminum $3 Billion Plastics $12.3 Billion Iron $9 Billion Gold $10.3 Billion Copper $10.5 Billion Last year,
Apple pulled $40 million worth of gold from recycled phones.

The Internet and e-waste
The Internet was supposed to decrease e-waste. But the advent of new devices means old ones are thrown out. other types of waste are decreasing; however, e-waste is growing close to 5% annually.
More than 5.5 million boxes of software go to landfills and incinerators.
Online downloads and streaming are causing CDs to become obsolete.
Millions of music CDs thrown away each year. Every month, approximately 100,000lbs of CDs become obsolete.
It takes over 1 million years for a CD to decompose in a landfill.

Most used and replaced electronics
Cellphones – Replaced every 22 months
Computer – Replaced every 2 years
Television – Replaced every 10 years
Printer – Replaced every 5 years

Where cell phones go to die
Approximately 350,000 phones are disposed of daily = More than 152 million phones each year.
More than 7.2 billion mobile phones in existence (the Earth’s population is 7.4 billion).
80% of phones end up in landfills. Exported to countries like Ghana, India, and China where civilians salvage electronics in hazardous/toxic conditions.
For every 1 million cell phones recycled, 35,274 lbs of copper, 77 lbs of silver, 75 lbs of gold, and 33 lbs of palladium can be recovered.
Americans throw out phones containing $60 million in gold and silver every year.

What can we do about e-waste?
Re-evaluate: Do you need that gadget?
Extend the life of your electronics: Buy a case. Avoid overcharging the battery.
Buy environmentally friendly electronics. Look for ENERGY STAR or Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Took (EPEAT) certification.
Donate used goods to social programs: Children safety initiatives; domestic violence victims, etc. Reuse large electronics. Use e-waste recycle bins.