Where is all the e-waste Going?

The print and paper industry continue to make strides to be environmentally friendly – between tree farmers replanting trees in place of those that are harvested and over 63 percent of paper products being recycled in the last year – the industry continues to strive toward environmental excellence.  Many times you will hear the phrase “think before you print.”  But, what about the environmental impact of digital technologies?  Both digital and print have an environmental footprint and print is not as bad as you think and digital may be worse than you knew.

Every year, a common digital medium, email, uses approximately 33 billion kilowatt hours – to put this number in perspective, it equates to 3.1 million cars using about 2 billion gallons of gas.  So, when using a digital medium, it may not be as ‘green’ as you think and what happens after a cell phone, computer or T.V. is put in the trash?

According to an International Paper article, “Down to Earth,” digital waste, when put into a land fill, is extremely toxic.  Currently, 70 percent of all metals found in a landfill are from televisions and computer monitors.  These two components also make up about 40 percent of a landfill’s lead count.   Regrettably, if these items are not disposed of properly, these toxins will enter our soil and, if they’re incinerated, the toxins will enter the air.

  • There are ways to help make digital waste less hazardous to the environment.
  • Pass on your old laptops and T.V.’s to keep them out of landfills for a longer period of time.
  • Some cities offer locations for you to drop off you old electronics and they’re disposed of in a more environmentally friendly manner.
  • Some companies offer ‘take-backs,’ this process allows you to return your used electronics to the company you purchased them from.  The companies will recycle what they can and dispose the rest in a more environmentally safe manner.

Both the print and digital industries will have an environmental impact.  What is important is that you’re conscious of how you dispose both your paper and your electronics.  Take the time to recycle your paper and find an outlet to unload your electronics to a location other than a landfill.  The environment will thank you for it.


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