E – Waste – What is it? What do we do with it?

| December 18, 2011

What is E Watse?

This isn’t just a Holiday problem but this is a good time to talk about it. Because this is a time of year that we are buying and receiving all of the latest electronic gadgets and the old ones all too often become e-waste. (Remember if you are buying, It’s also very important that you select greener electronics that can be more easily handled at end of life. See EPEAT for more info on Green electronics buying.)

Holiday sales may be  down, but millions of Americans will still awake Christmas morning to new computers, TVs and cellphones. Many of those gifts will be replacements or upgrades, which prompts the question, What should you do with your old cell phone and other electronic equipment?

If you are like most Americans, you will toss your old electronics in the trash bin. Every day Americans throw out more than 350,000 cell phones and 130,000 computers, making electronic waste the fastest-growing part of the U.S. garbage stream. Please do not do that! Improperly disposed of, the lead, mercury and other toxic materials inside e-waste can leak from landfills.



What is E Waste

Electronic waste, or e-waste, is generally considered anything that plugs into a wall or accepts batteries.



  • Televisions and monitors
  • Computers
  • Printers, scanners, and fax machines
  • Stereo equipment
  • VCRs, DVD players
  • Video cameras
  • Telephones
  • Cell / wireless phones
  • Fax and copy machines
  • Video game consoles

E-waste does NOT include toasters, blenders or other small appliances, but these don’t belong in the landfills either. Look for local community businesses or organizations that will accept these for repair, or as donations. Small appliances containing significant amounts of metal are often recycle (and sometimes worth a little money).

Why is e waste bad for the environment?

Recent studies show that the component materials of electronic items pose dangers to human health and the environment.

  • Electronic equipment contains hazardous materials such as lead, mercury and brominated flame retardants.
  • Cathode ray tubes (CRTs), the glass picture tubes found in television and computer monitors, contain five to eight pounds of lead.
  • Computers contain heavy metals such as lead, chromium, nickel and zinc that leach out into the environment and affect our public health and natural resources, but when recycled, can help manufacture new electronics.
  • 50 million computers and monitors and 130 million cell phones are thrown away each year in the United States. That’s a lot of equipment!
  • Plastics used in casings are often difficult to sort and recycle, and can pose a health and safety risk to workers.

For these reasons more and more, landfills refuse to accept electronic products or charge a hefty disposal fee. Local and state governments are imposing strict guidelines on proper disposal. Who pays? Nonprofit organizations that accept donated goods, such as Goodwill Industries, are often stuck with piles of computers and televisions they have to pay to dispose of safely, diverting dollars from the critical human services they provide their communities.

The issue is such a concern to policy makers, environmental planners and citizens that at least four states across the country have adopted ordinances that ban the disposal of electronics and more than 20 other states are considering bans. Some states such as California established and funded a program for consumers to return, recycle, and ensure safe and environmentally sound disposal of covered electronic devices(CEDs).

For example – California consumers pay a fee of $6 to $10 at the time they purchase certain video display devices. Those fees are deposited into a special account that is used to pay qualified e-waste collectors and recyclers to cover their costs of managing e-waste.

So What Should you do with your e-waste?

Take it back

E waste has surfaced as an important issue, because it can be dangerous if disposed of improperly. Many major retailers have instituted take-back programs and municipalities have created drop-off locations to help quell e-waste issues.

Manufacturer Specific Programs

Retailer Programs

  • Circuit City (Easy-trade in program)
  • Best Buy
  • Staples (accepts computers, monitors, laptops, and desktop printers, faxes and all-in-ones)
  • EPA Plug-In Partners (lists manufacturers, retailers and service providers that offer recycling of e-waste)


  • EPA–lists options for donating or recycling e-waste
  • Techsoup–lists non-profit organizations and recyclers of e-waste
  • Goodwill (some locations accept computers)–website includes tips on how to donate computers

Cell Phone Recycling/Donation

Rethink Initiative through Ebay offers members a variety of solutions that make it easy to deal with your used computers, cell phones and electronics:

Sell your items
Whether you’re an individual with just a few items, or a business with a warehouse full, eBay offers a broad selection of tools and solutions that make selling computers, cell phones and electronics easier.

If you’d like to sell your own item, you can find out what it could be worth, erase your old data or get a shipping kit. If you’d rather not sell it yourself, eBay offers three solutions: 1) Find a store where you can drop it off and they sell it for you; 2) Use the fast cash trade-in tool to get an instant offer on your old item and arrange for free home or office pick-up and free shipping; 3) Find a local trading assistant who can handle the selling process for you.

Get started selling your items today.  You can also have a garage sale to sell you old working electronics. Maybe sell a few other things as well, make a couple of dollars and your things get reused!

Donate to a charity
Many charities are looking for your unwanted computers, cell phones and electronics to help others – either by giving them to others, or converting them to cash to fund their efforts. The members of the Rethink Initiative have suggestions on how you can help make a difference.

Get more information about donation.

Recycle responsibly
If your computers and consumer electronics are beyond reuse or repair, the members of the Rethink Initiative have gathered information and easy-to-use tools to help you recycle them responsibly.

You can learn about what it takes to recycle responsibly and find links to environmental organizations that can help you locate recyclers in your area on the Rethink Recycling page.

Find out more about recycling.

Working on the local level is one of the best ways to reduce e-waste. If you want to join other concerned individuals and organizations in your area, the Rethink Initiative has useful information that can help.

Learn how you can help organize or participate in local efforts.

Electronic waste is a social and global issue

  • Some electronic recyclers ship e-waste to underdeveloped countries where toxic components are openly burned, soaked in acid baths and dumped into rivers, or piled into mountains of e waste for scrap recovery.
  • Children and impoverished people smash leaded glass tubes, breathe lead solder flames without protection and melt plastics with toxic flame retardants.


Ask your electronic recycler if it adheres to social and environmental standards. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has compiled a list of questions that may be helpful to consider as you choose a recycling center.


What ever you do, Think of the impact that the your e-waste can have on the environment. Find a solution from the choices above. There are many local options where ever you are located. If you are having trouble find a recycle location or drop off

check out Earth 911  , Freecycling.com  or Green Spot Dropoff  and in the UK Partners IT  as well and

better yet, get the most out of your electronics, make them last, do you really need the latest gadget, it will only be the latest for a short time and then you will be back out shopping again – can you hold off, maybe wait until something actually breaks or wears out.

Watch the above video – it just amazes me what people will do for a Buck! The dishonesty when it comes to making money is disgusting!

Go Green America TV Host – Jeff Davis


Enjoy your Holiday Season and try to make a few Green adjustments this year, because every little step leads to a big step

“Think Green, Live Green and Go Green America”     Happy Holidays!

follow the Go Green Guy on twitter @thegogreenguy

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Category: Go Green America TV Segments, Go Green News, Uncategorized

About the Author (Author Profile)


Creator/Host of Go Green America TV
Jeff (Jf) Davis aka The Go Green Guy is from Maine
Moved to LA to follow his passion as an actor
these days he is still acting, lives in LA with his wife and two boys
an writes about Green Living for his website Go Green America TV
that will soon be a TV show!!

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Comments (4)

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  1. […] have talked about these in recent post and you have many options. E – Waste – What is it? What do we do with it? will answer all of your […]

  2. Sue Chiang says:

    Hi Go Green Guy – thanks for this information about e-waste and recycling. I just wanted to urge you to include in your post that people should seek out certified e-Stewards recyclers (www.e-stewards.org) to handle their e-waste when their equipment is too old to donate.

    There is also some great information that compares the various manufacturer take-back programs at: http://www.electronicstakeback.com/how-to-recycle-electronics/manufacturer-takeback-programs/

    And additional tips overall – http://www.electronicstakeback.com/how-to-recycle-electronics/

    Thanks – I appreciated your other article, “19 items you may not know you can recycle”! -Sue

  3. Sue

    thank you and by leaving this great comment you have just added that info!