What is e-waste?
Electronic waste, or e-waste, includes products such as computers, keyboards, monitors, printers, televisions, cell phones, data storage devices, and VCR/DVD players- just about anything with a circuit board or power cord. Even though e-waste currently comprises less than 4% of the total solid waste stream in the United States, itís been estimated that the volume of e-waste is increasing 2 to 3 times faster than other waste streams (e.g. paper or yard waste). For example, 490 million personal computers were retired between 2000 and 2005, and the number is expected to increase to 955 million between 2005 and 2010. The recycling rate of electronic products, on the other hand, was only about 10% in 2003. Thus there is a rising amount of e-waste with only a tenth of it being managed in a way that helps to prevent pollution and promote resource conservation.
The sheer quantity of e-waste is not the only issue. Many electronic products contain potentially hazardous or toxic materials, and these can harm the environment if not managed properly. Materials such as cadmium, mercury, chromium, brominated flame retardants in plastics, and lead in cathode ray tubes and solder are especially toxic.