Why Recycle E-waste?

It’s often cheaper and more convenient to buy a new PC than to upgrade an old one. But what happens to those old computers once they’ve been abandoned for newer models?More than 3.2 million tons of electronic waste is laid to rest in U.S. landfills each year. Electronics are the fastest-growing part of the world’s trash problem, with an estimated 50 million computers becoming obsolete annually. Over the last decade, nearly two computers for each person in the United States became obsolete. Every day, individuals and organizations dispose of mountains of e-waste, containing hazardous and toxic materials that pose significant environmental risks: CRT monitors with toxic lead oxide that can leach into the ground water; PC-related components & batteries with chromium, nickel, zinc, mercury and other heavy metals; plastic equipment housings that can release dangerous gases if incinerated. The average CRT monitor contains about five pounds of lead oxide powder embedded in the glass. The average sized state has an estimated 4.2 million computers in homes and workplaces. That is equivalent to 315,000 tons of solid waste and 26,000 tons of toxic lead.Tossing your organization’s end-of-life equipment in the dumpster is simply not an option anymore. De-manufacturing and legitimate recycling, utilizing an authorized electronics recycler is the only way to ensure compliance with the more than 550 state and federal e-waste laws currently on the books. Federal legislation governing electronics recycling includes: the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), and Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA). These laws specify procedures and reporting requirements for any US organization that recycles as little as 220 pounds of e-waste per month. The penalties for improper recycling or inadequate reporting can be severe, up to $32,500 per day. Responsible organizations have come to realize there is no “free lunch” in IT recycling. Even alternatives like donation or employee purchase carry a risk, because the liability for environmental hazards may fall back on the originating party with penalties applied against all involved parties. Partnering with an authorized electronics recycler like The Surplus Exchange that is truly committed to proper procedures is the best and safest way to serve the public interest and protect your organization from state and EPA penalties.Tax laws are written so that computer equipment can be depreciated over a three year period. Therefore, most companies are ineligible to donate equipment for tax write offs, since it may have already been entirely depreciated. Most schools and non-profits will no longer take computer equipment as donations, since they would simply be assuming the liability and cost for end-of-life disposal. In most cases, by the time computers are donated to the schools, they are years behind the current generation of technology.The Surplus Exchange has been in business for well over 20 years and maintains a zero landfill policy with zero export of equipment to Third-World Countries.Because re-use is the most environmentally-friendly form of recycling, all equipment received by Surplus is audited by our technicians to discern remaining value for refurbishment or remarketing, unless our clients request otherwise. If re-marketable value exists, the items enter our reuse system and are available for purchase at our location.

Many companies who would offer to take away your materials for free, or would even pay you for them, should be closely scrutinized. Understand that once these materials leave your control, they will most likely be sold to the highest bidder, and the subsequent computer scrap could end up in an unauthorized location that could lead back to you, with the potential of heavy fines to your organization.

Key Findings on the Management of Select Electronic Products in the US in 2007

Of products sold between 1980 and 2007, approximately 235 million units were stored in homes as of 2007.
Estimated Number of Units in Storage as of 2007
Product Type Number (million units)
Desktop computer
Computer monitors
Portable computers (notebooks)
Hard copy peripherals (printers and copiers)
Recycling vs Disposal
Generated(million of units) Disposed(million of units) Recycled(million of units) Recycling Rate(by weight)
Televisions 26.9 20.6 6.3 18%
Computer Products* 205.5 157.3 48.2 18%
Cell Phones 140.3 126.3 14.0 10%
*Computer products include CPUs, monitors, notebooks, keyboards, mice, and peripherals.
Substance Occurrence in e-waste
Halogenated compounds:
– PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) Condensers, Transformers
– TBBA (tetrabromo-bisphenol-A)
– PBB (polybrominated biphenyls)
– PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers)
Fire retardants for plastics (thermoplastic components, cable insulation)
TBBA is presently the most widely used flame retardant in printed wiring boards and casings.
– Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) Cooling unit, Insulation foam
– PVC (polyvinyl chloride) Cable insulation
Heavy metals and other metals:
– Arsenic Small quantities in the form of gallium arsenide within light emitting diodes
– Barium Getters in CRT
– Beryllium Power supply boxes which contain silicon controlled rectifiers and x-ray lenses
– Cadmium Rechargeable NiCd-batteries, fluorescent layer (CRT screens), printer inks and toners, photocopying-machines (printer drums)
– Chromium VI Data tapes, floppy-disks
– Lead CRT screens, batteries, printed wiring boards
– Lithium Li-batteries
– Mercury Fluorescent lamps that provide backlighting in LCDs, in some alkaline batteries and mercury wetted switches
– Nickel Rechargeable NiCd-batteries or NiMH-batteries, electron gun in CRT
– Rare Earth elements (Yttrium, Europium) Fluorescent layer (CRT-screen)
– Selenium Older photocopying-machines (photo drums)
– Zinc sulphide Interior of CRT screens, mixed with rare earth metals
– Toner Dust Toner cartridges for laser printers / copiers
Radio-active substances
Americium Medical equipment, fire detectors, active sensing element in smoke detectors