Every time we buy a new cell phone, computer, or trade in that television for a shiny, new flat screen, we often struggle to figure out what to do with the old one. Many of these electronics contain toxic chemicals, and the fact that the parts come from all different parts of the world makes regulation difficult.
This relatively recent problem of e-waste is not ignored by the press. Outlets like Wired, the New York Times, and National Geographic have written about it for a few years now, but it still remains a growing problem.
So how do we make our technology greener and help stop the toxic electronic waste from piling up? In 2005 the European Union decided to enforce stricter standards and as a result, many new cell phones are built without chemicals like mercury and lead, according to a recent article in the Inter Press Service News Agency.
In the EU, all mobile phone companies are obligated to set up take-back and recycle programs for batteries and phones under the bloc's Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive that entered into force in 2005.
Some states here in the United States are ensuring that electronics already in existence don't end up in landfills where the chemicals can seep into groundwater. So far, four states--New Hampshire, California, Massachusetts, and Maine--all approved legislation that restricts dumping of certain electronics. That leaves only...46 more states to go!
Some things that you can do include recycling your old cell phone through your service provider, waiting to take that old computer monitor out of your closet until the city sponsors an electronics recycling day like they have here in New York, or buying a recycled product. Will that be enough? Probably not, but it's a start.