E-waste (the industry term for discarded electronics) has been around since the first PC’s hit the market in the late 70’s. Since then, computers have advanced significantly, prompting users to discard their old ones every few years just to keep up. This has also spurred the creation of mobile electronics, in the form of smartphones and portable gaming systems. And like their bulkier cousins, they are continuously upgraded and improved like clockwork. The same can be said for a slew of other products, including TV’s, stereos, speakers, and even tablets.

Stacks of monitors going to Rise Electronic Recycling in Tucson

The huge influx of e-waste has caught some areas off-guard. One city in particular, Tucson, AZ, lacks a prohibition against disposing of electronics in dumpsters. This poses a problem for the local environment and community, since a lot of older televisions contain mercury and lead. Even current technology contains a number of dangerous substances, including chromium, beryllium and cadmium. These heavy metals are notorious contaminants that can easily leech into the soils that surround landfills.

A number of waste removal organizations have sprung up in Tucson and other cities in an attempt to curb the amount of land-filled electronics. One such company is Rise Equipment Recycling Center which allows Tucson residents to drop-off their old electronics. PC’s and portable electronics can be disposed of free of charge, but televisions require a $10 fee due to the additional costs of recycling them. The company refurbishes computers that were made within the last five years, and breaks down older ones for their parts.

The city of Tucson works with Rise to encourage citizens to recycle their e-waste, in lieu of enacting any laws banning electronics from landfills. It is hoped that increasing public awareness of e-waste will help reduce the amount that ends up in the trash. But so far it appears that these efforts haven’t made a dent in the amount of electronics thrown out every year. The EPA gathered data on e-waste disposal in 2010 and found that only 27% of all consumer electronics were recycled in that year. In addition, there were 28 million TV’s thrown out that year, and only 17% of them were recycled.

In spite of these setbacks, there is an ongoing movement to curb the rise of e-waste before it becomes a significant problem. Almost 25 states currently have some form of e-waste regulations on the books, with many others considering recycling programs. Given enough time, it may be possible to rid our landfills of all electronics waste for good.