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       We can’t live without our cellphone, laptop, iPod, etc. right? Well, if the US keeps disposing of old electronics the way we do currently, we may not be able to live with them either. Here are the fast facts:
  • In 2007 (the latest year for which there are statistics) 372 million pieces of electronics were discarded. That included more than 140 million cellphones, 30 million desktop computers, and 12 million laptops. Of those, only 18% were recycled. That means 82% were dumped into landfills, despite the fact that is quite dangerous, and in some states, illegal.

  • Those old electronics are filled with toxic chemicals that can easily leach into the soil or groundwater. These aren’t sorta-kinda-mighta be dangerous chemicals. They include lead, mercury, and polyvinyl chlorides, chemicals known to cause everything from cancer to kidney disease.

  • Even the electronics that were recycled are problematic. The Government Accountability Office ran a sting last year, and found 42 US companies that were open to helping them illegally export e-waste to countries that have even fewer rules about disposal.
       What can we do? First, think twice (or maybe three times) before upgrading electronics. Second, look for EPEAT-certified products. They are designed to minimize toxic chemicals and maximize recyclability. Third, check for a listing of recyclers that meet the most stringent ethical standards. Fourth, send this e-mail to a friend.

We should think about...
  • How does our business handle obsolete electronics? Are we recycling all that we can?
  • Are we convinced that our current “IT asset disposal service” is doing the right thing when recycling electronics?
Sources: EPA 2009; EarthShare 2009; Greenbiz Journal 2009
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