Since technology improves so quickly, computer hardware becomes outdated in a very short period of time. As people buy newer and better electronics, landfills are becoming overrun with this type of garbage. Besides the space being taken up by PCs, monitors, gaming devices and appliances, there are significant health risks created by simply throwing these everyday items away. An alternative to dumping is computer recycling.
There are a number of hazardous materials in computers and other electronics that can contaminate soil and groundwater once the items make their way to landfills. Lead and mercury are two of the more familiar and abundant toxins found in electronic objects. Cadmium is another pollutant of concern, along with dioxin. All of these substances are harmful to people and animals and are becoming more abundant by the year.
News about lead contamination from many sources is common. Lead can be found in processor chips and CRT monitors. It causes all sorts of health problems from bone issues to kidney and liver disease, even brain damage. Likewise, most people have heard about the health risks of mercury. It can be found in parts such as switches and LCD monitors. Mercury poisoning can affect the whole body system causing neurological and immune disorders.
Cadmium makes its way to landfills in certain types of batteries. The symptoms of cadmium poisoning are not mentioned in the public media as commonly as lead or mercury. Its effects can be equally devastating, and many nations and corporations have banned its use in consumer products.
Dioxins are some of the worst and most prevalent chemical pollutants in the environment today. They are released in many different ways and are found at low to moderate levels in the food, water, and air supply. Overexposure causes any number of medical problems, so limiting the amount of dioxins that discarded electronics contribute to the ecosystem is vitally important.
How to Recycle Unwanted Electronics
Computer recycling is not as simple as putting the unwanted hardware out at the curb with old newspapers and empty aluminum cans. In America it falls largely upon the individual to arrange for a solution, as each state has varying regulations and practices for disposing of these devices. Many states have no guidelines at all.
There are many companies that will pick up old electronics, either as a public service or for a fee. If the equipment is not obsolete it can sometimes be sold for parts. Electronics manufacturers and non-profit environmental groups are working all over the country to address how best to deal with existing computer waste and how to prevent the creation of so much waste in the future.
Donation is a wonderful alternative to disposal. Schools, second-hand shops, group homes and many other charitable organizations are almost always willing to accept computers that are in good shape and are not too outdated. Often a tax credit is available for this type of donation. Regardless of the way that it happens, computer recycling is a practice that will continue to be very important over time.