Fastest Growing Waste Problem

"[E-waste is] the world's fastest growing and potentially most dangerous waste problem."—Chris Prystay.

Chris Prystay, "Recycling E-waste," Wall Street Journal, September 23, 2004, p. B1.

The main concern with e-waste is its highly hazardous content. As the Electronics TakeBack Coalition explains: "Over 1,000 materials, including chlorinated solvents, brominated flame retardants, PVC [a type of plastic], heavy metals, plastics and gases, are used to make electronic products and their components— semiconductor chips, circuit boards, and disk drives."34 Computer monitors, for example, often contain 4 to 8 pounds (1.8 to 3.6 kg) of lead—a heavy metal known to cause brain damage in children—and big-screen TVs have even more lead content. Flat-panel TVs also use large amounts of mercury, a toxin that is carcinogenic even in very tiny doses; as little as 0.014 teaspoons (0.07mL) can pollute an entire lake. In addition, brominated flame retardants are widely used in plastic cases and cables for fire retardancy, and the heavy metal cadmium was widely used for years in rechargeable batteries for laptops and other portable electronics. Most newer rechargeable batteries do not contain cadmium. Much of this e-waste is produced by rich nations but exported to developing countries for disposal, where the absence of government regulations often exposes poor workers to health hazards and pollutes the local environment.

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