Saturday, February 23, 2008

e-Waste: Handle With Care

Inefficiency – Advancements in technology has created a gargantuan e-waste problem where US businesses contribute 20 - 30 million tons of e-waste annually. Only 10 to 20 % of the computers that are disposed of are recycled. The remaining unwanted equipment is disposed of improperly or awaiting disposal. Government officials estimate that 50 - 75% of all computer equipment is in storage awaiting disposal. (Think of your garage!)

Circuits - High value gold, etc

Toxic metals - Lead, mercury, etc.




A single computer monitor will contain at least 2 pounds of lead if newer, 4 pounds if average and 7 or more if older. If that lead seeps into the water supply, then toxins from a single monitor are sufficient to poison the entire community.

The residual value of computer parts is found in its metals, glass and plastics. The design of most computers, however, makes recycling manually intensive and dangerous. Improper recycling can contaminate materials that are then put back into the manufacturing cycle, such as plastics contaminated with heavy metals and made into toys or bottles.

Opportunity – More thoughtful design by computer manufacturers to include end-of-life considerations will make recycling more attractive. Of the estimated 350 – 500 Million computers that are unused and in storage, there is sufficient scale to establish a productive and green recycling business. Price escalation and shortages of critical materials make the economics viable. Recycled materials use less energy than raw to fabricate. Energy reductions when recycling of
· Plastics saves 70%;
· Metal saves 60% and
· Glass saves 30%.

The direct benefits to your business in helping to establish a green recycling environment are
· Cost of storing obsolete equipment,
· Avoid stricter legislation putting burden on business


  1. If the equipment is not obsolete, donate for reuse by another organization. But avoid dumping nearly obsolete equipment that will require disposal soon.
  2. Leverage vendor take-back programs. Contact vendor who sold original or vendor that is selling the replacement.
  3. If donation or take-back is not an option then dispose of responsibly with a third party green recycler that has signed a “Stewardship Pledge”.
  4. If a safe disposal method is unavailable, then store unwanted equipment until a green recycler is found.
  5. When purchasing, acquire technology that has end-of-life disposal plan and a design to make recycling easier and safer.
  6. Consider leasing equipment as alternative to purchasing from vendor that disposes of equipment responsibly.
  7. Support tax incentives to create a vibrant and green e-cycling business environment.



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