Scrap Electronics (E-Waste) Reuse and Recycling

Electronics recycling has been available for Anchorage residents and businesses for almost a decade.  Below are numerous options for reusing and recycling computers, cell phones, TVs and other electronic devices.

Local Reuse Opportunities

Local Recycling Opportunities

Other Opportunities

Recycling Options for Specific Materials

The Details

 

Local Reuse Opportunities

Alaska Materials Exchange

This web-based, interactive system allows businesses, oganizations and individuals to list unwanted items, including computer equipment in working order for reuse. Anyone looking for such items can log on and identify needed items. All exchanges are made directly between users. This site allows for year-round exchange of equipment, keeping unwanted equipment out of the landfill and reducing the rate of new equipment purchases. Additional benefits include the ability to sell equipment with value, the immediacy of new equipment postings, and the ability for donor and recipient to make convenient arrangements for the transfer of goods.

Green Star is not responsible for any information on computers exchanged through the Alaska Materials Exchange. Additionally, be sure to make it clear to the recipient whether you intend to transfer the software licenses of any software contained in the computer to keep you compliant with your software agreements.

Local Groups/Retailers That Can Reuse

Alaska Linux Users Group (AKLug)
337-2303
Interested in newer systems in working condition, including monitors that are 16" or larger, mice, and keyboards.

Computer Renaissance
211 E. Dimond Blvd.
344-6565
Will accept small quantities of computers for refurbishing and resale. Call for details, may be at maximum capacity.

Maximum Data, Inc.
333-2754
Repairs and recycles computers. Call for more information.

Local Recycling Opportunities for Businesses

Businesses can drop off electronics at Total Reclaim's facility in Huffman Business Park or call Total Reclaim to schedule a pick up. The fee for businesses is $18/monitor (CRT computer monitors only) and 35¢/lb for all other items, with an additional pick-up fee of $100/visit in the Anchorage bowl

Green Star members (enrolled and Award-certified organizations) -- Receive a 5¢/lb discount on your electronics recycling at Total Reclaim.  Green Star members pay just 30¢/lb for all electronics.  Monitors cost $15 each and CPUs, laptops, and cell phones can be recycled for free.

Total Reclaim also is offering an opportunity for larger Green Star Award-certified organizations to host their own event. If your business has more than ~50 employees, consider contacting Total Reclaim to set up in your parking lot to accept both the business electronics as well as household electronics from employees. Total Reclaim also can arrange to accept other items, such as batteries, during the event. Call Total Reclaim at 561-0544 to make arrangements.

Total Reclaim, Inc.*
12101 Industry Way, Unit C4
Anchorage, AK 99515
561-0544
Hours of Operation: M-F 8am-5pm

*Total Reclaim has signed the Basel Action Network's Electronic Recycler's Pledge of True Stewardship, the most rigorous criteria for sustainable and socially just electronics recycling.

Business also can drop off electronics for recycling at the Anchorage Regional Landfill's Hazardous Waste Center during regular landfill hours. SWS currently offers year-round electronics recycling for businesses at the Anchorage Regional Landfill in Eagle River. The program offers drop-off of electronics for $30 for monitors or TVs under 19 inches, $35 for monitors or TVs over 19 inches, and 50¢/lb for all other electronics. Call for updated information.

Anchorage Regional Landfill, Eagle River
Municipality of Anchorage Solid Waste Services
343-6262 or 428-1742

Local Recycling Opportunities for Households

IN ANCHORAGE -- Households can drop off electronics at Total Reclaim's facility during regular business hours.

Total Reclaim's regular drop-off will cost residents $18 for monitors and 35¢/lb for all other items. Recycling fees for TVs are based on the size of the TV.
All other electronics cost 35¢/lb.

TV FEES
Up to 19” = $15
19” to 27” =$25
28” to 34” =$35
over 34” = $50

 

Total Reclaim, Inc.
12101 Industry Way, Unit C4 (in Huffman Business Park)
(907) 561-0544
Open to Public: Monday through Friday, 8am - 5pm
 

Local Recycling Opportunities for Nonprofits

Total Reclaim will accept electronics from nonprofits for just 25¢/lb rather than the standard 35¢/lb.

Between 2003 and 2009, Green Star, with the help of the Rasmuson Foundation, assisted hundreds of nonprofits in recycling more than 280 tons of electronics. About one in six organizations were from communities outside of Anchorage.

Approximately 30% of the electronics recycled were recycled through the recent three-year reimbursement program while the remaining 70% was recycled during the four annual events held between 2003 and 2006. A full 60% was recycled during the 2005 and 2006 events, which included electronics from several communities outside of Anchorage.

The goal of Rasmuson’s assistance to nonprofit organizations was to reduce the cost burden on non-profits as they work toward budgeting for managing scrap electronics in an environmentally safe manner.

The program ran through June 2009. The discount was available for 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organizations. Non-profits with budgets of more than $3 million were ineligible for the program.

Below is a list of recyclers in Anchorage that will accept electronics from nonprofits. Call the individual recyclers for details about pick-ups and the associated fees if interested.

Anchorage Regional Landfill, Eagle River
343-6262 or 428-1742

Total Reclaim, Inc.
12101 Industry Way, Unit C4 (Huffman Business Park)
561-0544

 

What is Accepted?

Accepted: televisions, computer monitors, computers/laptops, keyboards, mice, modems, external drives, scanners, printer, copy machines, cables, other computer peripherals, VCRs, DVD players, VHS players, stereos, radios, phones, fax machines, camcorders, electric typewriters, microwave ovens, and most media (floppies, CDs, DVDs), telephones, cell phones, video and audio cassette tapes, PDAs, ink/toner cartridges, wires/cables, and similar products.

Not accepted: smoke alarms, vacuum cleaners, exit signs, lighting ballasts

Other Opportunities

Other Alaskan Communities

Matanuska-Susitna Borough
(907) 745-9838
The Central Landfill in the Valley offers year-round electronics recycling for businesses and households. Households can drop off one monitor/TV and one other piece of electronic equiment for free on HazMat Saturdays (the last Saturday of each month, except February and December) between 9:30am and 4pm. The Borough charges $30 for each additional monitor/TV and $10 for each additional peice of equipment dropped off on the same day. Businesses with small amounts (less than a pallet) can bring material to HazMat Saturdays and will be charged the household rates. Larger quantities must be palletized and an appointment must be made with the environmental technician for drop-off (354-1689). The cost is a flat fee of $180 for each pallet, plus 50¢/pound.

 

National Recycling Programs

Best Buy Electronics Recycling Program

Bring in two items per day per household. Best Buy does not charge a fee for recycling most of the consumer electronic products. There is a charge of $10.00 for TVs 32" and under, CRTs, monitors and laptops, which is offset by a $10.00 gift card. This charge does not apply to Best Buy private label products (i.e., Insignia, Dynex).

Costco Trade-In and Recycle Program
Costco members can use this program, even in Alaska. It is free for qualifying equipment, including UPS shipment, and users may receive a Costco cash card for valued equipment.

Hewlett Packard Recycling Service
Information about returns for recycling of hardware of any kind.

IBM PC Recycling Service
Information about sending electronic equipment to IBM for reuse or recycling.

Recycling Options for Specific Materials

Cell Phone Recycling

Credit Union 1
Works with The Wireless Foundation's the CALL TO PROTECT campaign, which collects wireless phones to benefit victims of domestic violence. Proceeds from the sale of phones help fund agencies that fight domestic violence and are also used to support the educational efforts of The Wireless Foundation. Other phones are refurbished and become lifelines for domestic violence victims when faced with an emergency situation.

Drop off used cell phones at any Credit Union 1 location in Alaska. It is prefered that the cell phone include a charger and battery. Contact Donna Lapella at 339-9485 for more details.

Locations:
1941 Abbott Road, Anchorage
3500 Eide Street, Anchorage
8935 Old Seward Highway, Anchorage
824 W. 8th Ave., Anchorage
222 W. 7th Ave. (Federal Building), Anchorage
4020 DeBarr Road, Anchorage
16635 Centerfield Drive, Eagle River
1453 University Avenue South, Fairbanks
909 First Avenue, Fairbanks
and other branches in Nome, Kodiak, Soldotna, and Ketchikan

Matanuska Telephone Association
Bring unwanted cell phones and batteries to any MTA store to help support Alaska's only high school marching band at Colony High.

Locations:
MTA Eagle River, 12110 Business Boulevard
MTA Palmer, 480 Commercial Drive
MTA Wasilla, 701 East Parks Highway, Suite 100

Recellular, Inc.
2555 Bishop Circle West
Dexter, MI 48130
734-205-2222
Recellular, Inc., accepts cell phones, as well as toner cartridges, small and large quantities. For larger quantities, rebates are given, depending on the condition of the phones. Recellular can help you set up a collection program to benefit a charitable organization.

RESTART
Donate your used cell phone to this program that benefits The Children's Organ Transplant Association. Bring your phone to any Cellular One retail location or donate online.

The Charitable Recycling Program
794-A Industrial Court
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302
Mail your cell phones to this organization and they will make a charitable donation.

Cash for iPhones
Mail your iphone to this organization and receive cash back.  Visit the web site for details and to determine the value of your phone.  **This site also provides great information about cell phone recycling in general and its impact on the environment, as well as additional resources about the hazardous materials in cell phones and other electronics.

Sell and Recycle
Mail your phone and receive cash back.  Also accepts ipads and ipods.

 

Media Recycling

Floppy diskettes, CDs, DVDs, audio and video tapes are all secondary waste items generated when we use electronics. As they wear out or become obsolete with the introduction of new media, they too need to be managed properly.

One easy recycling option to ship your media to GreenDisk. GreenDisk accepts most types of electronic media for recycling, including CDs, DVDs, computer diskettes, video and audio tapes, as well as cell phones and inkjet toner cartridges. The web site has full shipping instructions. The program costs the consumer the price of shipping plus an additional 10¢ per pound. There is a minimum charge of $5 or 50 pounds.

One hundred percent of the money that you pay to ship your waste materials (beyond the post office’s costs) is donated to charity. GreenDisk makes all of its money through the sale of products, e.g., its reformatted disks and tapes. The workshops where materials are sorted, reformatted, relabeled, and repackaged are staffed by a group of disabled workers who keep all money from the shipping fees.

Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) Recycling

As of January 29, 2007, cathode ray tubes (CRTs) are not considered hazardous waste if they are managed for recycling. CRTs are the video display components of televisions and computer monitors. The glass in CRTs typically contains enough lead to require managing it as hazardous waste under certain circumstances.

On January 29th, CRTs officially became Universal Wastes, for which federal hazardous waste management requirements are streamlined. In Alaska, that means the new management regulations are in place immediately since no State agency needs to implement them.

The revised standards are designed to increase the collection and recycling of CRTs, which, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), will save energy, conserve resources and enable the recovered lead to be reused to reduce the amount of lead in landfills. About 57 million computers and televisions are sold in the U.S. annually, although many new models may not contain CRTs.

Under the new regulations, used, unbroken CRTs are not regulated as hazardous waste unless they are stored for more than a year. The U.S. EPA revised the standards for unbroken CRTs because the risk of lead releases is very low. Limited storage requirements apply only to CRT recyclers and collectors.

The Details

Electronic Equipment Disposal Regulations

The quantity of hazardous waste generated and how it is managed determines how an organization is regulated. Regulated hazardous wastes come in many forms that may not at first be intuitive. For example, many common items, such as computers, monitors, televisions, printers, fluorescent lamps, and even remote controls (nearly anything with a circuit board), contain enough lead to usually fail the toxicity characteristic leaching procedure (TCLP) test for hazardous waste.

Organizations that generate more than 220 pounds of regulated hazardous waste are classified as either a small quantity generator (SQG) or a large quantity generator (LQG), and must handle and dispose of their hazardous wastes in an approved manner. In Alaska, landfilling is not an approved disposal method for SQG and LQGs. Recycling of electronics will not count toward an organization’s hazardous waste quantities, nor will donating the usable equipment as an intact product (as opposed to as a waste). Therefore, there is a large financial incentive for SQGs and LQGs to recycle electronics, as dealing with them as a hazardous waste can be very expensive.

Even conditionally exempt small quantity generators (CESQGs), which are organizations that generate less than 220 pounds of regulated hazardous waste per month, should track and record any materials that may be regulated hazardous waste to prove that they are within the guidelines for CESQGs. Considering the weight of the average monitor and computer, it does not take much to go over the 220-pound limit. The average computer with monitor weighs 50 pounds and televisions can be even heavier. It would only take about five full computers per month to exceed the CESQG limit, not including any other hazardous waste the business generates.

Based on this calculation and the assumption that many larger businesses replace their computers on a three-year cycle, any business with 180 computers or more probably exceeds the 220-pound monthly limit based on their electronics waste alone. Factor in other hazardous wastes and businesses with far fewer computers will exceed. Again, donating usable equipment or recycling the electronics are the two solutions to this potentially costly problem. To avoid the costs associated with becoming a SQG, be sure to recycle or donate used equipment.

The Anchorage Regional Landfill is turning away people attempting to dump electronics unless the electronics came from a conditionally exempt organization or household. Despite these exemptions, it is always preferable to recycle electronics instead of landfilling them. See the sections below on environmental impacts for details.

Data Destruction, Information Security & Software Licenses

 Total Reclaim’s shredding machine in Seattle will physically destroy all but the newest computers sent to them.

Some of the top-end equipment may be refurbished and donated to schools in developing countries through non-profit organizations World Computer Exchange and Digital Partners. All hard drives are removed from these computers and destroyed!

If you would prefer that your equipment not be reused, you have several options.

1. Let your recycling know and they will label each piece or pallet that you do not want reused “destructive recycling only, no reuse” (or you may label them yourself).
2. Erase your own data to your satisfaction using software or a large magnet.
3. Remove hard drives from your computers and label them for destructive recycling only. In this case the rest of the computer could be reused when matched with a new hard drive.
4. Remove and physically destroy your hard drives before dropping off for recycling. Some use hammers, but please be careful and protect your eyes!
5. Remove and keep your hard drives.

Total Reclaim guarantees data security, backed by insurance and bonding so you need not go to these lengths to ensure data security.

If you plan to donate your computer for reuse, either through the recycling event, through the Alaska Materials Exchange, or another avenue, the following information may be helpful in removing information from your hard drive.

http://www.tinyapps.org
Under the home tab, select #4 File, then scroll down to File Wiping/Shredding. FREE download

http://www.all.net

http://www.accessdata.com

http://www.digitalintel.com

Green Star is not responsible for any information on computers exchanged through the Alaska Materials Exchange. Additionally, be sure to make it clear to the recipient whether you intend to transfer the software licenses of any software contained in the computer to keep you compliant with your software agreements.

Where Does It All Go?

This information was provided by Total Reclaim. Once received, equipment is sorted onto pallets by type: monitors and TVs together, computers CPUs together, and peripherals, small items and media together in large boxes.

When the boxes and pallets are full, they are weighed, recorded, and stacked into 40-foot trailers using forklifts. The trailers are moved to the Port of Anchorage for shipment to Total Reclaim, Inc., in Seattle, Washington.

Once the materials reach Seattle,Total Reclaim, Inc., sorts all of the materials for reuse or recycling.

About 10% will be reused. Reused equipment is donated to either World Computer Exchange or Digital Partners, two non-profit organizations that re-deploy usable equipment to non-governmental organizations and educational programs in the developing world.

About 90-95% (by weight) of the remaining equipment will be recycled into new products. These materials are crushed and sorted.

Glass

Chunks of leaded glass from computer monitors and television screens await transport to Envirocycle, Inc. in Pennsylvania.

Glass grit from the grinding process will be sent to Doe Run, in Missouri, for use in the lead smelting process.

The video display component of most computers monitors and televisions is a cathode ray tube (CRT). The typical CRT contains 15 to 90 pounds of glass. To this glass, lead and other elements are added to protect the user from X-rays generated within the CRT. Disposal in landfills is not the most sound management option for waste CRTs because of the high quantities of lead in each screen. Glass recyclers are:

EnviroCycle, Inc. – Hallstead, PA – made back into leaded glass for monitors and TVs
All intact monitors that Envirocycle receives are inspected for the possibility of resale. All other units are dismantled. The average processing time is two weeks. Within one month, the glass cullet is back into the commerce stream as a new CRT.

Doe Run Company – Boss, MO – lead smelter
Anything that cannot be used to make new CRT glass is sent to a primary lead smelter for reuse.

Jones Quarry, Inc. – Olympia, WA – non-leaded glass

Tri-Vitro Corporation (maybe) – Kent, WA – non-leaded glass

Metals
Metal is separated using large magnets after being shredded.

Copper is the primary metal found in wires and cabling. These items are baled and shipped to copper smelters for copper recovery. Circuit boards are ground and shipped to copper smelters as well. The copper and small amounts of precious metals are recovered and the other circuit board material is useful for its BTU value during metal recovery. Aluminum structural pieces are baled and sold to aluminum smelters. Steel housings are baled and shipped to ferrous smelters (foundries).

Seattle Iron and Metals – Seattle, WA – copper wire recycling

Schnitzer Steel Industries - Tacoma, WA

Circuit Boards

Noranda Recycling, – San Jose, CA

Umicore Precious Metals Refining - Hoboken, Belgium

Plastics

Plastics generated from electronics waste are primarily ABS (acrybutidiene styrene) from keyboards, monitors, and CPU housings, and HIPS (high density polystyrene) from televisions. HIPS is regranulated and sold to companies that pelletize it and reuse it in injection molding to make new consumer products such as televisions, handheld computer games and similar products. ABS plastics include about seven or eight different resin types. The ABS is cleaned and baled and sent to plastics recyclers. The companies below will either use the product commingled or separate it further by resin type and pelletize it for sale to end markets. Plastics can be used for a variety of new products including plastic lumber and pallets, carpet and carpet backing,

Plastic Nation, Inc. – Boca Raton, FL

Batteries

Allied Battery – Seattle, WA – recycling the lead-acid batteries

Inmetco – Ellwood City, PA – recycling all other batteries

Other Components

Items that will be discarded include wood and phenolic laminate common in old console televisions and insulation. This is estimated to be less than 1% of the material processed.

 

The Need for Electronics Recycling

With the growing use of computers and their relatively short life span, computers and other consumer electronics are becoming a serious waste problem worldwide. Here are some statistics associated with electronics waste:

* Two (2) million tons of electronics are landfilled each year.
* Forty (40) million computer monitors and TVs will become obsolete in the U.S. this year.
* Two hundred fifty (250) million computers will become obsolete in the next five years.
* By 2006, it is estimated that 163,420 computers and televisions (3,513 tons) will become obsolete every DAY.
* One hundred thirty (130) million cell phones will be obsolete by 2005.
* Currently, more than 50% of U.S. households own a computer, and many upgrade every 3 to 5 years.
* In the U.S., 128 million people use cell phones, upgrading their phones, on average, every 18 months.

This massive quantity, with its toxic materials and sheer bulk, is creating a problem that can no longer be buried. According to USEPA, if all the stored electronics are recycled or disposed, a wave of electronics waste will swamp existing programs, starting in 2007 and peaking in about 2010.

There are environmental and public health risks associated with used electronics. Used electronics contain a wide range of materials, some of which are toxic, and most of which are recyclable. The risks associated with the more than 30 distinct materials that make up a personal computer are numerous. Lead, cadmium, barium, chromium, and mercury are among the most harmful. The plastics in a computer also contain harmful substances such as polybrominated flame-retardants and hundreds of additives and stabilizers.

Once discarded in a landfill, computers can be crushed, releasing metals and other toxics into the environment via air and potentially via water if the landfill’s leachate collection system and runoff controls are not maintained properly. Approximately 70% of the heavy metals found in landfills come from electronic equipment discards. If disposal involves incineration, many toxic substances can be released into the atmosphere.

In short, the landfill is not the correct resting place for used electronics. Many states and municipalities have initiated electronics recycling programs, and some have even banned electronics from their landfills. Growing concern worldwide has prompted new laws and other actions to extend the life of computers, to manufacture them with less toxic parts, to improve the upgradeability of computers, to pay end-of-life charges at the time of purchase, and finally to recycle them at the end of their useful life.

The Toxicity of Electronics

The average desktop computer weighs about 60 pounds and is composed primarily of glass (25%), plastics (23%), iron (20%), aluminum (14%), copper (7%), lead (6%), and zinc (2%). These materials account for 97% by weight of the computer. The remaining 3% is made up of dozens of metals and compounds in very small quantities, including some that are commonly known, such as tin, barium, nickel, titanium, cobalt, gold, silver, and platinum; and some that are not so commonly know such, as ruthenium, palladium, niobium, and rhodium. Some are known to most of us as dangerous or poisonous, such as cadmium, chromium, mercury, and arsenic. The plastics that make up about a quarter of the machine also contain polybrominated flame retardants and hundreds of additives and stabilizers. (Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation, Electronics Industry Environmental Roadmap, Austin, TX, 1996.)

Risks
The risks associated with the more than 30 distinct materials that make up a personal computer are numerous. Lead, cadmium, barium, chromium, and mercury are among the most harmful. The plastics in a computer also contain harmful substances. Once discarded in a landfill, computers can be crushed, releasing metals and other toxics into the environment via air and potentially via water if the landfill’s leachate collection system and runoff controls are not maintained properly. Approximately 70% of the heavy metals found in landfills come from electronic equipment discards. If disposal involves incineration, many toxic substances can be released into the atmosphere.

Toxic components in computers include:

- computer circuit boards containing heavy metals like lead and cadmium,
- computer batteries containing cadmium,
- cathode ray tubes with lead oxide and barium,
- brominated flame-retardants used on printed circuit boards, cables, and plastic casing,
- PVC- coated copper cables and plastic computer casings that release highly toxic dioxins and furans when burnt to recover valuable metals,
- mercury switches,
- mercury in flat screens, and
- PCB’s present in older capacitors & transformers.

Lead
The most widespread danger associated with disposing of computers and other electronics may be from lead. Consumer electronics constitute 40 percent of the lead found in landfills. Each computer or television that is discarded contains 4 to 8 pounds of lead. Monitor glass contains about 20% lead by weight. Between 1997 and 2004, more than 315 million computers became obsolete in the U.S. If these are discarded, approximately 1.2 billion pounds of lead will be landfilled.

Lead is found in a computer’s CRT (cathode ray tube), which is the monitor screen. It is there to protect the user from the radiation and is harmless when encased in the monitor unit. Once a monitor is broken or damaged, lead can escape into the environment. Lead also is used in soldering of the numerous printed circuit boards located inside the computer. Lead will be released as fine particles as electronics begin to degrade in a landfill. The primary concern in regard to the presence of lead in landfills is the potential for the lead to leach and contaminate ground and surface water that may be used for drinking water, which will happen to some extent in all landfills.

Lead can cause damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, blood system and kidneys in humans. Effects on the endocrine system have been observed and lead can have serious effects on children’s brain development. Lead accumulates in the environment and has high acute and chronic toxic effects on plants, animals, and microorganisms.

Approximately 100,000 children from birth to 6 years of age are screened for lead poisoning and approximately 10 percent or 10,000 are found to have elevated blood lead levels. Lead poisoning is a major cause of nervous system deterioration and mental retardation in children.

Harmful health effects of lead include: decreased growth, hyperactivity, impaired hearing, and brain damage. It is stored primarily in the bones, but is particularly toxic to the reproductive system, the nervous system, the blood, and the kidneys.

Cadmium
Cadmium is used in batteries, metal coatings, and plastics – it can be found in older models of CRTs, infrared detectors, semiconductors, and SMD chip resistors. Cadmium can enter the air when electronics waste is burned, and can travel long distances before falling to the ground or water. It enters water and soil from waste disposal and spills or leaks at hazardous waste sites. People can be exposed to cadmium by breathing contaminated air, or eating foods containing it (fish, plants, and animals take up cadmium from the environment).

Breathing high levels of cadmium severely damages the lungs and can even cause death. Long-term exposure will affect the kidneys and possibly lead to kidney disease. It can also cause lung damage and fragile bones.

Barium
Barium is used in the front panel of a CRT to protect users from radiation. Barium can be released through the air, water, and soil, and is also accumulated in fish. Studies have shown that short-term exposure to barium (through ingestion) has resulted in brain swelling, muscle weakness, and damage to the heart, liver, and spleen.

Mercury
Mercury is used in LCD screens, batteries, and switches. When inorganic mercury is introduced into natural water systems, it is transformed into methylated mercury in bottom sediments. Methylated mercury easily accumulates in living organisms and concentrates through the food chain, particularly in fish. Methylated mercury causes chronic damage to the brain. The European Union estimated that 22% of yearly world consumption of mercury is used in electrical and electronic equipment. Humans are exposed to mercury by eating contaminated fish or shellfish, breathing vapors when mercury is burned, or through skin contact.

The nervous system is extremely sensitive to all forms of mercury. Exposure to high levels of metallic, inorganic, or organic mercury can permanently damage the brain, kidneys, and developing fetus.

Plastics
Plastics comprise about 13 to 14 pounds of each personal computer, which may result in more than 4 billion pounds of plastic waste from computers within the next few years. The largest volume of plastics used in electronics manufacturing is PVC at 26%. PVC is known to create more environmental and health hazards than most other types of plastics. PVC is uses primarily in cabling and computer housings. Today, most manufacturers have switched to ABS computer moldings, but the computer waste being generated still contains large quantities of PVC. PVC is difficult to recycle and contaminates other plastic types in the recycling process. Burning PVC produces dioxins and furans, which are harmful to human health and the environment.

Also present in many electronics is brominated flame retardants used to reduce flammability. Besides being used in computers, brominated flame retardants also are used in TVs and kitchen appliances. Various studies indicate that the class of polybrominated diphenylethers that include brominated flame retardants may act as endocrine disrupters. Accumulation in human breast milk has increased dramatically.

Information in this section is from:

Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation, Electronics Industry Environmental Roadmap, Austin, TX, 1996.

Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, Californians Against Waste, Materials for the Future Foundation, Campaign for Responsible Technology, and The Next Generation, Poison PCs and Toxic TVs, June 2001.