Farewell, German radio with your green eye and your bulky box
Together almost composing a body and soul.
…. your eye would grow nervous, the green pupil widen and shrink
…your old age was announced by a cracked voice,
then rattles, then coughing, and nally blindness (your eye faded), and total silence.
Sleep peacefully, German radio
Adam Zagajewski (1945–)
Electronics waste (e-waste) is an inevitable and unavoidable by-product of the current technological
revolution. e-Waste is a collective term, embracing consumer and business appliances, products,
components, and accessories nearing the end of their useful life due to obsolescence, malfunc-
tion, or exhaustion (e.g., batteries). Common examples of e-waste include personal and mainframe
computers, printers, televisions, VCRs, stereos, copiers, and fax machines. There is no standard-
ized denition for e-waste; however, electronics equipment may be dened as those devices whose
primary functions are provided by electronic circuitry and components, that is, semiconductor
devices (integrated circuits, transistors, and diodes), passive components (resistors, capacitors, and
inductors), electro-optical components (cathode ray tubes [CRTs], LEDs, CCDs, lasers, etc.), sen-
sors (transducers and MEM devices), and electronics packaging (printed circuit boards, connec-
tors) (IAER 2002). According to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA 2008), Americans
own approximately 24 electronic products per household. Some major categories of electronics
equipment are listed in Table22.1.
e-Waste comprises about 5% of municipal solid waste (MSW) and is one of the fastest growing
fractions of the waste stream (Electronics Takeback Coalition 2011). Today’s computer industry
innovates rapidly, bringing new technologies and “upgrades” to market every 18 months, on aver-
age. The average lifespan of a personal computer is currently 2 years (CAW 2012).
In 2010, the United States disposed 384 million units of e-waste, totaling 2.4 million tons.
Arecent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study estimated that the amount of e-waste
in U.S. landlls will grow fourfold in the next few years (CAW 2012). New products rapidly
heading to the market create additional wasteproblems; for example, the disposable cellular
telephone became available for marketing in the late 1990s. In addition, disposable DVDs made
a brief appearance on the market in the early 2000s.
The issue of how to manage e-waste is a pressing one. Many obsolete and malfunctioning
electronic products can be reused, rebuilt, or recycled. However, electronics that malfunction often
are not repaired due to the relatively low price of replacing them.
Only 600,000 tons or 17.7% of electronics waste was recycled in 2008, according to EPA (up
from 13.6 in 2008). The remainder was either disposed or stockpiled. These data compared with
34% of all MSW recycled. Most were disposed or remain in storage. It is estimated that nearly 75%
of unwanted electronics are in storage, partly because of the uncertainty as to how to manage such