ALERT Learn More | NASP Certification Program: The Path to Success Has Many Routes. Choose Yours

Electronic Waste (E-waste)

Last updated: November 30, 2019

What Does Electronic Waste (E-waste) Mean?

Electronic waste (e-waste) is an informal name loosely applied to consumer and business electronic products nearing the end of their "useful life." Computers, televisions, cell phones, VCRs, stereos, DVD players, copiers, and fax machines are common electronic products. Many of these products can be reused, refurbished, or recycled.

There is no clear definition for e-waste; for instance, whether or not items like microwave ovens and other similar appliances should be grouped into the category has not been established.

Safeopedia Explains Electronic Waste (E-waste)

E-waste contains both valuable materials and hazardous materials which require special handling and recycling methods. Electronic products contain heavy metals, semi-metals, and various chemical compounds that are hazardous to health. Lead, mercury, copper, barium, nickel, and even arsenic are all present in a variety of electronic products. Chlorofluorocarbons (commonly known as Freon) are found in discarded refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners.

Electronic waste improperly discarded or placed in landfills often break, exposing the inner workings and the dangerous chemicals and minerals found in them. In addition to posing risks to those who handle e-waste, these substances can also leak into the soil.

According to 2010 Environmental Protection Agency statistics, of the roughly 2.25 million tons of used and unwanted electronics each year, 18% is collected for recycling and roughly 82% winds up in landfills.

Many companies have recycling programs for used and unwanted electronics. Several have partnered with charitable organizations. Local social service agencies will accept, refurbish, and distribute electronics to their service population. Schools often accept electronics for use by their students.


Share this Term

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter

Related Reading


HazardsSafety EquipmentEHS ProgramsIndustrial Hygiene

Trending Articles

Go back to top