What Is E-Waste?

Electronic waste, sometimes referred to as e-waste, e-scrap, and “Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment” or WEEE for short (our personal favorite) are ways of talking about discarded, surplus, obsolete, or broken electrical or electronic devices. These are items that must be carefully disposed of or recycled for a variety of reasons. They often contain extremely sensitive information, which can be a tremendous liability. Further, they contain hazardous materials and sometimes components which can be removed and resold.

Many companies – even ones who bill themselves as e-waste recyclers – fail at one or more of these tasks, sending hazardous and sensitive materials oversees or to less-than-scrupulous scavengers who recklessly strip equipment.

There are millions of tons of valuable and potentially dangerous metals sitting on desks and in drawers in homes and offices that get thrown into landfills. The U.S. National Safety Council estimates that 75% of all personal computers ever sold are now gathering dust as surplus electronics.

When you use 4th Bin you are supporting our mission to do something about the overwhelming majority of electronics that are still discarded instead of recycled or reused. When e-waste finds its way into the regular waste stream or is sent to developing countries to be processed, it causes serious health and pollution problems. E-waste contains toxic materials such as lead, cadmium, beryllium, and brominated flame retardants. Workers tasked with processing this waste are often insufficiently protected from exposure. Further, improper disposal and processing techniques, which include burning and dismantling for valuable components, can pose significant safety and environmental risks.

In the United States, electronic waste represents only 2% of the trash in landfills, but an estimated 70% of heavy metals found there comes from the electronic waste that is mixed in with the other trash.