The E-Waste Market: The Good, Bad and the Ugly

While technology has become more affordable and readily available, discarded electronic waste, commonly referred to as e-waste, has become a great big problem.  That shiny new gadget you buy today will probably be obsolete tomorrow.  So what happens to all that electronic waste?

According to a 60 Minutes segment, an estimated 130,000 computers are thrown out every day in the US. In 2005, four billion pounds of e-waste was tossed out in the United States. While most is either incinerated or dumped in landfills, some of the waste that is “recycled” actually ends up being exported to developing countries.  Workers, often paid low wages, process the materials in primitive conditions, putting the workers and the environment at risk.

Electronic waste poses a real threat to our ecosystem by contaminating our water supply, air and soil.  E-waste not only contains toxic materials including lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and other toxic substances harmful to humans and wildlife, the waste is filled with all sorts of plastics and metals making the separation process difficult.

And those electronic devices including mobile phones, bulky monitors, hardware and computers not only pose a problem for the environment, but also are problematic for companies and organizations concerned about keeping their data and information secure.

e-Waste market

According to a recent report by ABI Research, the e-waste market is expected to nearly triple by 2015.  The 65-page e-Waste Recovery and Recycling report, predicts the world-wide market for recycling used electronics is expected to reach nearly $15 billion by 2015, up from $5.7 billion in 2009. Electronic recyclers recovering valuable materials from discarded computers and electrics account for most of the growth.

If handled properly, a large amount of e-waste can be recycled or reclaimed in a responsible manner for future use. But just because some electronics recyclers claim to be responsible, they may not be.  So how can you find out if your area recycler is on the up-and-up?

The e-Stewards Initiative is a third party certification program that independently assures responsible e-waste disposal by recyclers. In order to be certified, recyclers must meet the e-Stewards Standards, which prohibit e-waste from being discarded in landfills or incinerators, exported to developing countries or sent to prison labor operations.

Jace is the Internet Feature Writer for Suite101 and is the Holidays and Working Moms Examiner for She is a regular contributor for Energy Boom, EcoWorldly and PlanetSave. She particularly enjoys writing about unusual and downright wacky environmental stories and issues plaguing wildlife and animals.Besides writing, Jace is also passionate about online safety and issues concerning children. As an Internet Safety educator, she teaches online safety and technology to 600 elementary-aged children every week for her local school district.Jace has two children who are both in college and is also mom to a slew of pets.

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