When your computer becomes toxic trash
Ways you can cut down on e-waste
Internet e-cycling information

“E-Cycling” is reusing or recycling consumer electronics, including discarded computers, TVs, cell phones, handheld PDAs, VCRs, and other electronics. This equipment is often made from non-renewable resources and contains hazardous chemicals including lead, chromium, cadmium, and mercury.

Studies estimate that 315 to 600 million desktop and laptop computers in the U.S. will soon be obsolete. Discarded computers and other consumer electronics are the fastest growing portion of our waste stream -- growing almost 3 times faster than our overall municipal waste stream. One report estimates that a pile of these obsolete computers would reach a mile high and cover six acres. That's the same as a 22-story pile of e-waste covering the entire 472 square miles of the City of Los Angeles.

Government researchers estimate that three quarters of all computers ever sold in the U.S. are lying in basements and office closets, awaiting disposal. An estimated 63 million personal computers are expected to be retired in the U.S. in 2005 alone—that's one computer becoming obsolete for every new one put on the U.S. market!

The total mass of secondary materials used to produce a 2-gram microchip is 630 times that of the final product. (For comparison, the resources needed to build a car weigh about twice as much as the final product.)

In 2002, the European Union adopted two “extended producer responsibility” directives requiring electronics manufacturers to phase out the use of hazardous materials and to assume responsibility for the “take back” and recycling of e-waste.

In 1993, U.S. President Bill Clinton issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to buy only computer equipment that meets the efficiency requirements described under the government's Energy Star program. Today, largely as a result of this increased demand, 95 percent of all monitors, 80 percent of computers, and 99 percent of printers sold in North America meet Energy Star standards.

Don't just throw your old electronics in the trash! As we replace our old computers with the latest models, we're contributing to a mounting global problem: electronic waste, and each of these machines is a toxics trap. A typical computer monitor with a cathode ray tube display contains 2-4 kilograms of lead, as well as phosphor, barium, and hexavalent chromium. Other toxic ingredients include cadmium in chip resistors and semiconductors, beryllium on motherboards and connectors, and brominated flame retardants in circuit boards and plastic casings. Tiny semiconductors require more material inputs than most traditional goods. Workers in the “clean rooms” where the chips are made are exposed to a host of chemicals that have been linked to cancers, miscarriages, and birth defects. And these facilities generate huge volumes of chemical waste, contaminating groundwater at many high-tech sites. Send a letter to electronics companies urging them to take full responsibility for the life cycle of their products. See http://



  • Before you buy replacement technology, assess your current equipment. Can you improve your computer's performance with a memory or video card upgrade? Do you need a cell phone with all the newest features when your old one works just fine? Is it worth buying a new portable CD player if you eventually want an MP3 player?
  • Choose a product that has all the features you will need for the foreseeable future, has space to add components such as memory if needed, or takes the place of two separate gadgets (for example, you could consolidate equipment by buying a cell phone with integrated personal organizer, or a printer with integrated scanner or fax).
  • Purchase used or refurbished electronics (but be aware that these products might not come with a warranty).


  • Before discarding obsolete electronics, find out whether a local repair shop, electronics training program, or even a technologically inclined friend or family member could use it for parts or practice.
  • Consider donating used electronics to a nonprofit organization or school. Some organizations, for example, reprogram used cell phones for emergency use by senior citizens or victims of domestic violence. Computers that are less than five years old should be donated through an electronics refurbisher (see the link below), who will clean out old files and software and ensure all of the components are running properly. Computers that are more than five years old should be recycled, since software and technical support for older systems is difficult to find.


  • General electronics: Many cities and towns now offer electronics recycling as part of their household hazardous waste collection program. Contact your local public works department to find out what equipment it will accept and on what days; some charge a small fee per item.
  • Computers: If your town does not accept computers, look for a commercial recycler that can break down and distribute usable components and dispose of the rest properly (see the links below).

Cell phones: Many cell phone manufacturers and service providers will take back used phones for reuse or recycling.


Basel Action Network is an international network of activists that works to oppose the trade in toxic wastes and technologies from rich to poor countries.

Computer Recycling Center http:// Promotes the reuse of computer and electronics equipment, and the recycling of unusable elements.

Computer Take Back Campaign is working to make computer producers responsible for the safe design, manufacturing, and recycling of their equipment. Studies estimate that 315 to 600 million desktop and laptop computers in the U.S. will soon be obsolete. Discarded computers and other consumer electronics (so called e-waste) are the fastest growing portion of our waste stream -- growing almost 3 times faster than our overall municipal waste stream. One report estimates that a pile of these obsolete computers would reach a mile high and cover six acres. That's the same as a 22-story pile of e-waste covering the entire 472 square miles of the City of Los Angeles.

The Electronic Product Recovery and Recycling Project provides a listing of computer recycling contacts, information on how to recycle old computers, and recent reports on computer recycling.

Electronic Industries Alliance —Cell Phone Recycling and Donation Programs

Electronic Industries Alliance , National Database of Reuse and Recycling Programs. The Consumer Education Initiative (CEI) is a program developed by the Environmental Issues Council of the Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA). Its purpose is to inform consumers about recycling and reuse opportunities for used electronics.

Electronics Recycling http:// Electronics Recycling offers a wealth of recycling/reuse information representing all industry work groups (e.g., collection, Demanufacturing, refurbishment/resell, research, recycling). It also provides guidance to households and organizations for promoting recycling and reuse efforts.
Electronics Recycling is is a part of the GreenOnline Initiative and is designed to be the industry leader in ER traffic.

EPA—Computer Take Back Options

EPA—ECycling To eCycling Plug-In To eCycling is a consumer electronics campaign working to increase the number of electronic devices collected and safely recycled in the United States. Launched in January 2003, Plug-In To eCycling is one component of EPA's Resource Conservation Challenge (RCC), ( a national effort to find flexible, yet more protective ways to conserve our valuable resources. They have information on where you can donate or recycle your old computer and other electronic products. See

Federal Electronics Challenge Used and obsolete electronics, such as computers, printers, mobile phones, and fax machines, are part of an increasing and complex waste stream that poses challenging environmental management problems for federal facilities. Electronic products contain a variety of hazardous constituents. Cathode ray tubes, circuit boards, batteries, and other electronic components often contain toxic materials such as lead, mercury, and cadmium.

Grassroots Recycling Network They advocate corporate, government, and individual responsibility for waste.

Green Biz includes Computer recycling

High Tech Goes Green

Hewlett- Packard will take back old computers of any make.

International Association of Electronics Recyclers represents the interests of electronics recyclers in developing an effective and efficient infrastructure for managing the life-cycle of electronics products.

MAR Refurbishers Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher Donation Program, Supplying Microsoft Windows OS to U.S. nonprofit & school computer refurbishers

Materials for the Future Foundation The Materials for the Future Foundation has done extensive work on Environmentally Preferable Purchasing of electronics and the unique electronics recycling infrastructure issues facing California cities and local governments.

National Database of Reuse and Recycling Programs

National Electronic Product Stewardship Initiative
(NEPSI) EPA created NEPSI to bring stakeholders together to develop solutions to the issues surrounding electronic projects waste reduction. NEPSI consists of approximately 45 members who represent a wide stakeholder base from federal, state and local governments, manufacturers, retailers, recyclers, and environmental groups.

Recycler's World http:// Lists several categories of technology recycling, including computers, printer cartridges and telephone equipment, with links to companies, associations and publications related to each specific category.

Recycling Resources

Share the Technology http:// Connects potential donors and recipients, providing state-by-state listings of those looking for or looking to discard technology.

Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition A new report released August 17, 2005 documents for the first time the extent of toxic contamination from obsolete computers, televisions, and other gadgets that have been shipped overseas by U.S. recyclers. They engage in research, advocacy, and organizing around the environmental and health problems caused by rapid growth of the high-tech industry. As much as 50-80 percent of U.S. electronic waste collected for recycling is sent to Asia (mainly China, India, and Pakistan) where workers are exposed to toxic fumes, lung and respiratory irritants, and other dangerous health threats.

Ten Tips for Donating a Computer


Become a Green Congregation:
Transforming Faith Communities

Complete Manuals
Getting Started
Religious Education

Building and Grounds
Home and Work

Congregational Reports

Restore the Earth:
Transforming Society

An introduction to
our Ecological Problems and the Available Solutions