Friday, April 22, 2011


In honor of Earth Day (April 22), Maximum PC has a writeup titled "E-Waste - What happens to tech once its trash." This is a fascinating and terrifying look at what happens to the electronics that we throw away. Even if you take electronics to be "recycled," it is frightening to see what might actually happen.

Something as small as a cell phone can contain dozens of hazardous materials. "Stuff like copper, gold, lead, nickel, antimony, zinc, beryllium, tantalum, mercury, arsenic, and coltan" are common, and can easily leech into soil and groundwater in landfills. Cell phones are just the beginning; add to that computers, printers, monitors, televisions, gps systems, telephones, fax machines, scanners, and all the other electronics that make our lives more productive, and you have a serious accumulation of hazardous waste.

"Ghana, along with regions of India, Nigeria, China, and several other locations, have become the world's electronic dumping ground. There, old, unused, unloved, and outmoded electronics arrive by the boatload, often under the guise of recycling. Sadly, the word "recycle" means something very different there than it does here."

Courtesy of Greenpeace

"In this unregulated and often unmonitored environment where the average annual wage is expressed in the hundreds of dollars, tech products are burned over open flames to separate the plastic from the more valuable metals. Products with little or no value are dumped in nearby pits. Needless to say, the threat of escaping toxins is not a threat at all – it's a reality."

So what can we do?
  • The most obvious step you can take is to not throw away electronics (or batteries) into the normal trash. These things need to be properly disposed of and, ideally, recycled.
  • Check the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics to see which companies have shown a motivation to clean up their products and have recycling programs for old electronics in place. Support these companies, and their efforts, by buying their products. Some companies like Dell even have internal programs in place to trade in old electronics which they then recycle.
  • Go to to find a local recycling center for your old electronics. Chances are there is one closer to you than you think.
The problem of E-Waste is massive, but even through small changes, we can all make a huge impact. Have a happy and safe Earth Day!

Researched and written by Dr. Rebecca Malamed, M.D. with assistance from Mr. Malcolm Potter.


  1. Good information. We had no idea how to go about getting rid of old office machines!

  2. Thanks for guiding me as I used to throw the trash in the normal things but now as per your instructions and after reading the, I will throw it differently.