Toxic Materials in Electronic Devices Are a Real Threat
From desktop PCs, laptops, notebooks and handheld tablet computers to smart phones, GPS receivers and a wide range of other consumer and business electronic devices, most consumers are surprised to learn about all of the hazardous materials they contain. California, like almost all other states, has recognized the danger of depositing these materials in landfills, where the hazardous materials can leach out of the devices and harm the natural environment. Since 2003, California’s Electronic Waste Recycling Act has made it illegal to dispose of such devices in the state’s landfills. Proper disposal, though, is easy, through a broad network of electronics recycling centers throughout the state. This website can help you quickly find a recycling company or organization near you to make it easy to dispose of your unwanted electronics equipment safely. Some of the hazardous materials that may be part of any electronic device include:
- Mercury – This highly toxic metal is found in many electronic devices, including the backlighting features of many flat screen displays. It is also found in some batteries, and in fluorescent lamps. Unless it is properly removed from equipment, it can easily reach our state’s waters and cause environmental harm.
- Lead – As much as 5 pounds of lead is part of every CRT display tube in older computer monitors and TV sets. Lead also occurs in lead-tin solders that are widely used in electronic equipment and in many types of batteries. This lead can be recovered safely and reused through proper recycling.
- Cadmium – Used in many industries, including the electronic industry, cadmium is a health risk in the natural environment. Often used to plate metal components, in batteries, and in the fluorescent screens of CRT monitors, it also occurs in coatings, plastics and other components as a coloring agent. Proper disposal helps keep toxic cadmium out of the environment.
- Beryllium – Widely used as an alloying material in copper-based metals, beryllium is very toxic, but occurs only in minute quantities in most electronic equipment, often in alloys used for electrical contacts and springs. It also occurs in some laser printers. Properly recovered and processed, it won’t reach our water supplies.
- Chromium – Widely used in decorative plating and contained in stainless steel, chromium disposed of in landfills has the potential to be converted to the very toxic hexavalent chromium (CR VI) over time. Proper recycling and disposal helps prevent this material from pollution our groundwater.
- Antimony – This toxic metal can be found in some CRT display screens, and in small quantities in cabling and in some plastics used in computer and other device’s cabinets or housings. While not a large risk, it’s just one more hazardous substance that requires proper handling.
- Brominated Flame Retardants – Used in printed circuit boards, cases and enclosures, and elsewhere in electronics equipment, PBBs, PBDEs, and other brominated fire retardants are used to improve the fire and heat resistance of these materials. Proper recycling and disposal keeps them out of the environment.
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) – Just about every electronic device contains PVC, in cases, insulation, and cabling. When incinerated or otherwise burned, it can result in the creation of hazardous dioxins. Through properly recycling of these plastic materials, that risk is avoided.
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) – Older electronic equipment may contain these toxic materials, which have been replaced in more recent equipment. Primarily occurring in capacitors in some equipment, their use has been banned in the United States since 1977, but they may be present in older e-waste.
- Other Hazardous Materials – Rechargeable batteries, both older and new, contain toxic substances. Those may include mercury, lead, lithium, nickel and various chemical compounds that should not be released into the environment. Proper recycling of the batteries in electronic equipment is another part of the work of computer and technology recycling centers.
Keep Our Environment Safe through Proper Electronics Disposal
Today’s home and work environments contain a multitude of electronic equipment. Each year, some of it becomes obsolete, breaks, or is replaced by more current devices. Since it is illegal to dump these devices in California landfills, many Californians are not sure what to do with unwanted equipment. Our California Computer Recycling website is designed to make it easy for you to find recycling centers for this e-waste close to your home or place of business. We encourage you to use this resource to find qualified recycling companies and organizations that can take your unwanted electronics and recycle and dispose of them safely.