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What is Electronic Waste? By Darla Blackmon

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Modern technology provides society with many conveniences, from Wi-Fi enabled cell phones and ever-smaller laptop computers that make our entire lives portable to energy-efficient washers and dryers that use half the power and time to complete their tasks. However, these new toys and gadgets leave behind them a wake of outdated, unwanted contraptions.
It's all electronic waste and it includes everything from empty printer ink cartridges to broken refrigerators. As people purchase new items to replace aging electronics or make upgrades, more electronic waste is generated. In some cases, such as 2009's switch from analog to digital television broadcasting in the United States, changes in technology are so great that old equipment may not even work at all with new systems.
There are many reasons why it is important to recycle electronic waste. Much of the material used to construct electronics, including metal and plastic components, can be recycled into new items at a fraction of the cost and energy use needed to create things from new raw materials. Additionally, many electronics contain toxic substances that are harmful to the environment and could be catastrophic if leached into an area's groundwater. For example, television tubes contain mercury, which is known to be extremely poisonous. When properly recycled, electronic waste is stripped of all toxins and other harmful materials, which is then properly and safely disposed of. Because of these environmental concerns, many areas require by law that electronic waste be properly recycled.
The availability of electronic waste recycling programs varies from place to place. Some municipalities may provide such services to area residents. In some areas, annual collections are held once or twice a year as a means of disposing of electronic waste as well as used engine oil or other waste that is harmful to the environment. When purchasing new appliances that are being delivered, retailers like Sears often offer free removal of the appliance that is being replaced. Since some appliances, such as refrigerators, cannot be disposed of without costly removal of hazardous substances, this saves you not only time but money as well! Other retailers, like Best Buy, also offer electronic waste recycling programs to their customers.
There are also some good alternatives to recycling your electronic waste. Any items that are in working condition can be given to friends or donated to charities like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, who rely heavily on donations. Freecycling, or passing on your unwanted items to those in need of them, is also a means of finding new homes for used items. Websites like Craigslist and are good places to list any usable items you would like to give away. Interested parties can contact you to ask any questions they may have about your items and to arrange picking up their new treasures.
Electronic waste recycling helps preserve the environment by reducing the amount of toxic materials placed in landfills and salvaging recyclable components to save energy and other resources. Contact your local government officials or waste management companies for details on any e-waste recycling programs in your area.
Darla Blackmon writes about the environment and eco-topics at, a community website that covers local news, events and health. Visit the site to learn about Long Beach recycling and how the Southern California city is going green.
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