Electronic waste, or e-waste, is the fastest growing portion of the American waste stream, rising at rates around 8 percent a year. When released into the environment, the chemicals that make up cell phones, PDAs, televisions, and other electronics can cause severe harm to humans and animals, as well as long-term damage to the environment. Approximately 2.6 million tons of consumer electronic waste was produced in the US in 2005; only 13% of this was recycled.
Another challenge for modern electronics is energy consumption. Electronics are often inefficient, wasting large amounts of electricity. For example, at least 65 percent of the electricity used by computers is wasted, while only 35 percent is used for actual computing.
Americans buy nearly 3 billion household batteries annually to provide power on the go. Buying rechargeable batteries and a battery charger and recycling spent batteries lessens the amount in the waste stream. Nearly one in five household batteries sold in this country is rechargeable, adding up to more than 350 million rechargeable batteries purchased each year.
In 2007, there were nearly 3 billion mobile phone subscribers around the globe while 17.7 million PDAs were sold the previous year. Only about 5 percent of the power consumed by PDA or cell phone chargers is used to charge a device; 95 percent is consumed by the charger when no device is plugged in.
The rapid expansion of the personal computer industry carries enormous implications for energy use, hazardous waste issues, and human health. The production of computer parts such as microchips, for example, requires higher quantities of water, fossil fuels, energy, toxic chemicals, and elemental gases than any other industry in human record.
Considered a necessity in modern offices, copiers and printers are becoming increasingly popular in small and large offices, homes, and schools alike. From energy and paper inefficiencies to chemical contaminants and solid waste, these electronic devices come with plenty of eco-problems.
In a report about energy use of televisions, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimates that US televisions consumed about 4 percent of national residential electricity use in 2004 which comes out to 46 billion kilowatt-hours. They project a more than 50 percent rise to over 70 billion kilowatts per hour by 2009.
Find out how to green your electronics:
- The Computer Take Back Campaign
- ENERGY STAR - Computers
- Environmental Protection Agency - Municipal Solid Waste - Batteries
- Environmental Protection Agency - Enforcement Alert, The Battery Act
- Electronic News Net - Global Mobile Phone Connections Hit 2.5 Billion
- Tekrati.com - Worldwide PDA Shipments Top 17.7 Million Units in 2006
- Treehugger - Unplug Your Cellphone Charger
- The Green Guide - Product Report: Computers
- Natural Resources Defense Council - Televisions: Active Mode Energy Use and Opportunities for Energy Savings