Electronic products often contain hazardous and toxic materials that pose environmental risks if they are land filled or incinerated.
Televisions and computer monitors use cathode ray tubes (CRT) which have major amounts of lead.
Printed circuit boards contain primarily plastic and copper, and most have small amounts of chromium, lead solder, nickel and zinc.
In addition, many electronic products have batteries that often contain nickel, cadmium and other heavy metals. Relays and switches in electronics, especially older ones, may contain mercury. Also, capacitors in some types of older and larger equipment that is now entering the waste stream may contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Because of the presence of these hazardous or toxic substances, state and federal hazardous waste regulations may apply to handling disposal of certain types of electronic equipment. These regulations make businesses potentially liable for improper disposal of electronics.
Our country's landfills are already filled to its maximum capacity, more that half of the heavy metals found in them come from improperly discarded electronic and computer equipment. Despite the best efforts of environmental experts, hazardous materials defuse from landfills and contaminate our air, water and soil.
Consumer electronics account for 75% of the lead in municipal solid waste but compose less than 1% of the waste stream. By recycling and demanufacturing computers, we can divert significant levels of heavy metals from our landfills, where they could eventually leach into the ground water.
It is estimated that 150 million computers will be discarded in the USA alone, enough to fill a hole 1 acre in area and 3.5 miles deep.
The United Nations Environmental Program estimates that, each year, 20-50 million tons of E-Waste is dumped into landfills around the world.