Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Day 16 of our Green Year: Recylcing E-Waste

As a former Information Technology graduate and network administrator, I have a few bits of electronics around my home. Old computers, old printers and the like. In the past, I have sadly simply thrown these items out. However, as part of our Green Year, both Layla and I have chosen not to do this anymore.
From this point on, we will be recycling our e-waste in an effort to take harmful items and chemicals out of the environment, and put old computers and other electronics to use as something else.

Currently, e-waste represents two percent of the trash in the landfills of the United States, however they represent 70 percent of all the toxic waste in America's landfills. As well, since China, India, Kenya and other third world countries don't have stringent environmental standards, e-waste is sent to them to process, often illegally. With the burning, disassembly and disposal of these items there, huge environmental and health problems result. The reason for this is that e-waste has large amounts of toxic items in them, including lead, mercury and cadmium. For example, a typical computer monitor is made up of six percent lead, usually in the glass. The lead and mercury can often leak into the soil and groundwater of these countries that handle e-waste.

On top of all this, e-waste is the fastest growing source of waste in North America, where only 11 percent of all e-waste is recycled. In one landfill in Vancouver, over 12,000 tonnes of computer equipment was dumped in 2004. E-waste does not decompose, so centuries after it was used, computers will still sit, with their chemicals seeping into the ground and air around them.

From now on, in our household we will recycle all our old electronics to eliminate this problem and we hope you do too.