The Carbon Footprint of E-Waste

E-Waste on The Rise; infographic by Custom Made.

E-Waste on The Rise; infographic by Custom Made.

We came across an an infographic sponsored by Custom Made that does a good job of outlining the state of E-waste globally.  It made us think. 

Many of us have begun to be more aware of the environmental impact of our electronics, but the magnitude of the impact may still shock you a little.  We wanted to explore the topic from the perspective of wasted carbon footprint. 

According to the EPA, the average American household has 24 electronic devices.  A study by the UK retailing association, Retra indicates the lifespan for household electronics ranges from 2-8 years.   According to the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, There are a total of 384,000,000 electronic devices disposed of annually in the US.  Of those, 310,000,000 are simply trashed.  That is a full 81% that goes from your shelf or pocket to a landfill.  It is  10.4 million tons, or nearly 66 pounds of e-waste that is not recycled per person.


81% of US electronics go from our shelves and pockets directly to landfills.

Not only is that trash a massive environmental hazard, it is a huge missed opportunity to reclaim precious materials that we spent billions on annually to mine raw from the earth.  It is also a significant contribution to our collective carbon footprint.  Every one of those pieces of electronics has had significant energy invested into making it - a concept called "embodied energy".  It takes less energy to manufacture from recycled materials than it does from raw materials.  So, when we recycle, not only do we re-capture the raw materials, we also capitalize on the embodied energy and embodied carbon footprint of those materials.


 The awesome news is that this is an amazing opportunity for us all to make an immediate improvement on!  If you have electronics you have to cast off this year, don't fret because it happens to the best of us.  You can make a major improvement in our environmental and carbon footprints if you recycle or donate them.  You can find a number of resources on what to do with your household E-waste starting with the EPA.  You should also check with your local municipality or county to see what programs they may have in place.

You can also take a minute to calculate the environmental benefits of you recycling those items.  This calculator is courtesy of All Green Electronics Recycling: