How Do Computers Produce Hazardous Waste?

How Do Computers Produce Hazardous Waste?

August 26, 2022 Off By David

As technology professionals, you might not think much about being wasteful. After all, how much excess could you produce when everything is digital? This is a common misconception about hazardous waste—the truth is that the technology industry often generates waste, some of which is dangerous.

Computers produce hazardous waste through various channels. From monitors to circuit boards, internal components can have disastrous consequences on human health and the environment. You can avoid interacting with these harmful materials by being diligent when discarding your devices.

CRTs Contain Lead

Older computers feature cathode-ray tubes (CRTs) in their design. CRTs are the glass part of an old monitor that displays pictures and text. This display method uses electron guns to manipulate electrodes on a phosphorescent screen.

Modern manufacturers have moved away from this design due to the heavy presence of lead within CRTs. Old computers release this harmful substance into the environment when they end up in landfills or crush sites. According to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), lead is a hazardous material; exposure causes developmental and neurological problems in humans and contaminates local ecosystems.

Computers Generate E-Waste

CRTs and lead exposure aren’t the only things technology professionals should be aware of. Computers generate massive amounts of e-waste. Unrecycled monitors, keyboards, hard drives, and other accessories occupy valuable landfill space and displace local wildlife.

Plastic and metal take years to degrade naturally; when they do, they allow toxic substances to circulate throughout local water supplies. Additionally, overfilled dump sites leak into the surrounding environment.

Other Hazardous Materials

What kinds of hazardous waste do computers produce besides lead and e-waste? The answer lies within their internal components. For example, copper wires have PVC coatings that emit toxic fumes in the incineration process.

But, that’s not all—computers and their accessories also contain dangerous chemicals that disrupt biological processes, including:

  • Mercury
  • Cadmium
  • Bromium
  • Halogenated hydrocarbons

What Can You Do To Help?

Technological advancements are already dealing with these problems by modernizing devices. However, antiquated devices still exist, and handling and disposing of them with care is absolutely essential.

Taking sustainable actions is the best way to reduce electronic hazardous waste. Recycling materials and working with a specialized waste disposal service will keep dangerous products from wreaking havoc on humankind. Still, the first step is recognizing these toxic substances in your work and personal life; now that you know, you can make better decisions that benefit everyone.