How Computer Hardware Can Be an Environmental Hazard: Old Computer Parts May Be Bad for the Environment and Affect Human Health

Problems of Computer Hardware Being an Environmental Hazard

Sure, computers have changed the way we work, shop and live, cutting down on paper and sometimes on transportation needs, but what happens to your monitors, motherboards and accessories when they get old? With lots planned obsolescence built into desktop and laptop models, and new computer models coming out every year, it’s a fair question, and one that uncovers some negative results. First, there’s the cost in manufacturing all of those plastic shells, and the carbon footprint of all of that shipping, but there are also some toxic elements in computer hardware that make recycling a must for unused workstations.

Old Hardware May Contain Dangerous Elements

Old Computer Monitor

Used computer hardware or monitors are a source of some useful elements like copper and lead: but other harmful substances reside in your old hardware that, improperly discarded, pose serious problems for environmental and human health. Some of the worst parts of discarded computer hardware include:

* Mercury in flourescent tubes

* Cadmium and other potential toxins in laptop batteries and energy sources

* Lead in circuitry

In addition to these known dangers, it’s important to point out that there are also more subtle elements in computer hardware that could be getting into our environment and even our bodies! Conflicts like this one reported in U.S.A. Today show that some are concerned about plastics in consumer devices that can get into our bodies in traceable amounts that can build up over time. Issues like these add to the need for responsible use of old hardware and appliances.

How to Reduce the Impact to the Environment

Some organizations are offering solutions for buyers to compare the environmental impact of purchases including computer hardware. The EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) system, a program of the Green Electronics Council, helps buyers evaluate their gear with environmental rating systems to ensure themselves the best results for the world’s health.

Other agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are stepping in with their own resources for computer recycling and other assessments. It’s up to buyers to use these resources and keep in mind that dumping monitors, computers and other hardware is bad for the global and local human communities, and safe, effective recycling is the responsible thing to do.