Where gadgets go to die

  • 2014•09•06     The Economist

    Excerpt from The Economist Technology Quarterly:

    What to do with old computers, monitors, keyboards, printers, phones and other digital paraphernalia? On no account should anything containing a printed circuit board be put in the rubbish bin for municipal collection. Not counting all the other toxic materials used in electronic products, the lead in the soldered joints alone requires such items to be recycled professionally.

    According to a United Nations initiative known as StEP (Solving the E-Waste Problem), electronic waste can contain up to 60 elements from the periodic table, as well as flame retardants and other nasty chemicals. Apart from heavy metals such as lead and mercury, there are quantities of arsenic, beryllium, cadmium and polyvinyl chloride to be found. All of these pose hazards to the health of those handling them.