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At the end of each calendar year, more than 1 million additional tons of garbage is introduced into solid waste streams. The popularity of new flat-panel TVs, tablets, computers, and other digital devices brings an inevitable end to the electronics they replace. As Alabama Extension encourages people to be eco-friendly, this is a time to raise awareness about escalating waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

What is WEEE?

WEEE, more commonly known as e-waste, describes discarded electrical or electronic devices. Examples of e-waste are unused computers, office equipment, entertainment devices, mobile phones, and televisions. Electronic scrap components, such as cathode-ray tubes (CRTs) contain contaminants. These contaminants include beryllium, brominated flame retardants cadmium, and lead that threaten the environment. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also includes discarded CRT monitors in its category of hazardous household waste.

As the second-largest producer of WEEE, the United States tosses more than 9 million tons of e-waste each year. Rapid changes in technology and media, falling prices, and constant digital upgrades, result in a surplus of e-waste waste globally. Discharged cell phones and other electronic devices also contain high amounts of precious metals like gold and silver. These precious metals add up to more than $60 million every year. The EPA estimates that only 12.5 percent of e-waste is recycled while the rest goes directly into public landfills. It is important to note that the amount of e-waste being produced, including mobile phones and computers, could rise by as much as 500 percent over the next decade.

 

 

Solutions to E-waste

The most effective solution to the growing e-waste problem is recycling raw materials from outdated electronics. Most electronic devices contain a variety of materials that can be recovered for future uses. By dismantling and providing recycled possibilities, intact natural resources are conserved, and air and water pollution caused by hazardous disposal, is avoided. Additionally, recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions caused by the manufacturing of new products.

Many consumers desire the latest and greatest technology. However, Alabama Extension encourages consumers to recycle and dispose of unused electronics the right way. If a product can be reused for the same or a different purpose, try donating it to a reputable reuse organization that will not export it unless it’s fully functional. If a product is too old or too broken to donate, consider recycling.

Where to Recycle E-waste

Here are a few places where e-waste is recycled.

  • Bestbuy allows consumers to recycle up to three items per household per day. Contact a local store for state-specific info and limitations on TVs, computer monitors, and laptops.
  • The STS Electronic Recycling company recycles e-waste in Alabama and surrounding areas. Call 903-589-3705 or email recycle@stsrecycle.com for more information.
  • The Alabama Department of Environmental Management also lists places where e-waste can be recycled.

 

Let’s protect the planet by keeping harmful materials out of the environment. Visit www.aces.edu for more eco-friendly information.

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