Some twenty years ago electronic waste wasn't something people had even heard of, much less worried about as a global problem. But with the increased production and usage of all types of electronic gadgets, from computers, computer monitors and cell phones to printers, DVD players and Blackberries, has created a whole new category of waste products called electronic waste or e-waste.
What makes electronic waste such a headache is the fact that so many of the components used to produce these technological gadgets, such as mercury, cadmium and lead, are toxic to humans and the environment once the gadgets are broken down in landfills and recycling centers.
Discarded electronics in the United States alone are responsible for almost three-quarters of the hazardous heavy metals existing in today's landfills, polluting the ground and table water. Because most of the electronic gadgets being produced today are designed to become rapidly obsolete and be replaced by new and upgraded technology, many consumers throw away perfectly good electronics in favor of the next new thing. Consumers today usually won't pay to repair older electronics because they feel it is more cost efficient to buy something newer with better and more expanded user features and before you know it, there's another item in the ever-growing electronic waste pile.
There are several ways to deal with disposing of electronic waste that will do the least damage to humans and the environment. If the item is still in working condition, consider donating that cell phone or computer to a group or organization requesting cast-offs that they can refurbish and hand off for a second life to people who otherwise couldn't afford to purchase a new electronic gizmo.
If the electronic waste in question is totally broken down or not repairable, the first course of responsible action is to contact your local government's department of sanitation to see if there is a hazardous materials collection event happening soon in your area. This agency can also make recommendations on recycling centers which are capable of handling e-waste and disposing of it so that it doesn't do further damage. Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous recyclers of electronic waste who simply ship the damaged and used electronic goods to foreign nations where the parts are stripped and resold, exposing the workers and the environment to all sorts of hazardous toxic ingredients previously sealed inside the electronic components.
Another good course of action is to contact the electronic manufacturer to see if they have a responsible recycling program in place which allows you to mail back the used or broken electronics to be disposed of properly. Some major electronic companies can also direct you to take items to a central recycling center that has been certified on how to dispose of the equipment properly.