E-waste stands for electronic waste, and is what your company, or institution generates when you replace or otherwise need to dispose of electronic assets such as phones, tablets, servers, monitors, copiers, computers, printers, fax machines, etc.
E-waste contains toxic metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium as well as toxic organic chemicals such as brominated flame retardants. Old style cathode-ray-tube (CRT) computer monitors can contain up to 7 pounds of lead in the CRT tubes, and even more dangerous, are the toxic phosphor compound coatings inside the tube. Most circuit boards, found in virtually all e-waste, still contain toxic lead-tin solders, toxic beryllium and persistent polluting brominated flame retardants.
These toxic materials can be deadly for improperly protected workers in recycling facilities. These poisons can also find their way into our landfills if we are not careful about choosing responsible recyclers. In the US, it is illegal in nineteen states to dump certain types of e-waste in landfills, but in most cases and for most e-waste it is perfectly legal to use solid waste landfills and incinerators to “manage” what should be managed as hazardous waste.
Worse still, is the fact that 50%-80% of what most recyclers take in from their clients is simply exported to developing countries. In the United States and Canada, it is perfectly legal to export hazardous wastes to developing countries where it is, more often than not, managed in horrific conditions described as a cyber-age nightmare and to locations described as some of the most toxic sites on earth.
Finally, e-waste can contain private and proprietary customer or company data which, if released, can result in serious liabilities including exploitation by cyber criminals.