3 Solutions to Electronic Waste

Few Westerners could survive without their Macs or PCs, but the environment could use a break from old computers.

The problem

Nearly 250 million computers will become obsolete in the next five years, according to the EPA. Discarded electronics (e-waste) can contain toxic lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, and fire retardant. Of particular concern are the cathode ray tubes (CRTs) in computer monitors, which contain high concentrations of lead. Though the EPA considers each of these materials dangerous, household electronics aren’t classified as hazardous waste and aren’t subject to federal regulation. Therefore, in most states it’s up to individuals to decide the fate of discarded equipment.

The solutions


Give an operable computer to a local family, friend, school, or nonprofit such as Goodwill or Technology Training Foundation.

• Computers for Schools

• For a list of recipients, visit www.sharetechnology.org or www.usedcomputer.com.


A number of websites offers links to recycling centers:

• International Association of Electronics Recyclers

• Electronic Industries Alliance

• Electronics Recycling Initiative

3.Involve businesses.

The IBM PC Recycling Service allows consumers and businesses to recycle any computer for a small fee, including shipping. Hewlett Packard offers a similar service. Or businesses can consult with a company such as Newtech Recycling, which provides equipment resale, donations, or recycling.