United States has a colossal e-waste problem.
At 6.92 Million Tons, Our E-Waste Problem Is Getting Out of Control
Every year, we blithely discard billions of phones, laptops, TVs, and other electronics that can end up poisoning communities around the world.
Understanding the E-Waste
E-waste”, “electronic waste”, “e-scrap” and “end-of-life electronics” are terms often used to describe used electronics that are nearing the end of their useful life, and are discarded, donated or given to a recycler. Though “e-waste” is the commonly used term, EPA considers e-waste to be a subset of used electronics and recognizes the inherent value of these materials that can be reused, refurbished or recycled to minimise the actual waste that might end up in a landfill or improperly disposed in an unprotected dump site either in the US or abroad
An undetermined amount of used electronics is shipped from the United States and other developed countries to developing countries that lack the capacity to reject imports or to handle these materials appropriately. Without proper standards and enforcement, improper practices may result in public health and environmental concerns, even in countries where processing facilities exist.
We have serious concerns about unsafe handling of used electronics and e-waste, in developing countries, that results in harm to human health and the environment. For example, there are problems with open-air burning and acid baths being used to recover valuable materials from electronic components, which expose workers to harmful substances. There are also problems with toxic materials leaching into the environment. These practices can expose workers to high levels of contaminants such as lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic, which can lead to irreversible health effects, including cancers, miscarriages, neurological damage and diminished IQs.
U.S. e-waste recycling laws are often outdated or nonexistent
Only 25 states (plus Washington, D.C.) have legislation that addresses e-waste recycling. The other 25 don’t have comprehensive programs, and don’t report what happens to electronics beyond occasional voluntary numbers, says Jason Linnell, head of the National Centre for Electronics Recycling .
Federal laws don’t explicitly address e-waste recycling.
In 30 states, flipping a phone into the trash or dropping a flatscreen by the bins behind your house so it can be carted off to a landfill is perfectly legal. So knowing what percentage of the electronics stream is being recycled is practically impossible.
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