Electrical and electronic equipment is made up of a multitude of components, some containing toxic substances which can have an adverse impact on human health and
the environment if not handled properly.
Often, these hazards arise due to the improper recycling and disposal processes used. For example, Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) have high content of carcinogens such as lead, barium, phosphor and other heavy metals.
When disposed carefully in a controlled environment, they do not pose any serious health or environmental risk. However, breaking, recycling or disposing CRTs in an uncontrolled environment without the necessary safety precautions can result in harmful side effects for the workers and release toxins into the soil, air and groundwater.
Another dangerous process is the recycling of components containing hazardous
compounds such as halogenated chlorides and bromides used as flame-retardants in
plastics, which form persistent dioxins and furans on combustion at low temperatures
Copper, which is present in printed circuit boards and cables, acts a catalyst for dioxin formation when flame-retardants are incinerated.
The PVC sheathing of wires is highly corrosive when burnt and also induces the formation of dioxins. A study on burning printed wiring boards in India showed alarming concentrations of dioxins in the surroundings of open burning places.
e-Waste shows a higher growth rate than any other ‐ category of municipal waste. Overall, between 2007 and 2008, total volumes of municipal waste DECREASED, while e waste volumes continue to increase.
In 2008, we generated 3.16 million tons of e waste in the ‐ U.S. Of this amount, only 430,000 tons or 13.6 % was ecycled, according to the EPA. The rest was trashed – in
landfills or incinerators. The total generated increased from 3.01 million tons of e waste generated in 2007, but the recovery rate stayed at 13.6%
e-Wwaste is routinely exported by developed countries to developing ones, often in violation of the international law. In the US, it is estimated that 50-80 percent of the waste collected for recycling is being exported in this way.
Simply taking your computer to the nearest recycling center just doesn’t cut it anymore! Though well intentioned, your effort may be in vain. Most recycling centers simply disassemble the equipment ,shred it and melt it down for the precious metals and other raw materials the computers contain. ‘Recycling‘ in this manner consumes 20 times
more energy than reuse.
Worse than that, some unscrupulous recycling companies sell the equipment to undeveloped countries as e-waste where it is recycled by poor workers in an unhealthy and environmentally unsafe manner.This is not only only harmful to the local inhabitants of these countries, but for the environment as a whole.
Donating your computer to a refurbisher is a better option. Energy does not get wasted tearing down the old equipment and melting it down for the raw materials. There is also the benefit of one less computer that needs to be manufactured. The benefits of refurbishing go beyond environmental consciousness though.
Computers for Charity can take your disused computer equipment at no cost to you and refurbish it to be distributed to disadvantaged families as well as other small non-profits and charities who don’t have the disposable income to purchase new computer equipment.