Most Heavy Metals in Landfills Are from E-Waste

I work for an office equipment company selling copiers, fax machines, computers and printers. Each year new models come out making old ones obsolete. As a result, we have loads of trade-ins with nowhere to go. What can we do with this old equipment?

Electronic waste, or “e-waste,” is a growing problem as obsolete or broken computers and other electronic equipment are taking up increasingly precious amounts of landfill space and potentially leaking hazardous substances into surrounding ecosystems.

The nonprofit Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition reports that 70 percent of the heavy metals in U.S. landfills are from discarded electronics — even though the e-waste itself accounts for only two percent of the trash by volume. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that Americans trash two million tons of unwanted electronics each year — six times the amount they recycle. To make matters worse, U.S. companies often ship old equipment to poor nations whose landfills and incinerators are ill equipped, subjecting already struggling populations to lead, cadmium, beryllium and other contaminants.

So what can be done? If your old units still work, then donate them to a needy cause that will either put them to good use or resell them. You’ll earn a tax deduction for a charitable donation and, by keeping the equipment alive, prevent the manufacture of new units and thus, if ever so slightly, reduce the footprint of your operations.

But not every charity accepts old equipment. However, Goodwill will accept your equipment and resell it. The Salvation Army runs similar programs and also typically accepts donated old office equipment.

Another option is to donate your equipment to needy schools via a service like, which helps teachers find free supplies and equipment for their classrooms. The National Cristina Foundation also matches donated technology with needy schools and nonprofit organizations. The Web site maintains a list of charities in need of various equipment. You can also offload equipment via Freecycle.

While finding a new home for your old gear is preferable, recycling is also an option. Recyclers harvest parts from old equipment that can be reused or resold. Several websites, including My Green Electronics, E-cycling Central, and Earth911, list electronics recyclers across the U.S. Some of these vendors charge a fee to recycle an item, others may do it for free. Office Depot, Staples and some other stores will take back used electronics-even if not purchased there-usually for a fee.

Recycle e-waste like computers, office equipment, TVs, microwaves and stereos on April 15, 16 and 17 at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale. Hours are noon to 6 p.m. April 15-16 and 9 a.m. to noon April 17. The event is sponsored by Washington County Environmental Affairs and Boston Mountain Solid Waste District. Volunteers are needed to help with the event. For information or to volunteer, call 444-1725.

Categories: Legacy Archive