What is E-Waste?

Earlier in the year, I decided to learn and write about e-waste and made a commitment to tackle our own e-waste. Defining e-waste seems a good place to begin.

What is Waste?

I began my search for a definition of e-waste by looking up the word waste in my Webster’s New World College Dictionary Fourth Edition. About halfway down the 4 inches occupied by the word waste, I came across the following definition, “left over, superfluous, refuse, or no longer of use.”

What is E-Waste?

Electronic Waste Pile - WikipediaA national or global consensus on what constitutes e-waste, electronic waste, e-scrap, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) does not exist.

Is that pile of old monitors, desktop computers, and keyboards in your garage e-waste? The answer is it depends.

Some organizations define e-waste as an electrical or electronic device, piece of equipment, or component that has been discarded. This could include items that will be reused, resold, refurbished, repaired, recycled, salvaged, or disposed of. Others designate e-waste as what is left over after removal of usable components and valuable materials. Some apply the term e-waste to electronic equipment that is obsolete, outdated, or at the end of its useful life.

The table below shows a list of possible e-waste items by category.

Computer Mobile Devices Hard Copy Devices Audio / Visual Other
Desktop Computer Cell Phone Copier CB Radio Cables
Game Console Digital Camera Fax CD / DVD Player Calculator
Hard Drive E-Reader Multi-Function Device Radio Connectors
Hub Handheld Game Player Printer Radio Scanner Desktop Phone
Keyboard Media Player Scanner Speakers Microwave
Laptop Pager Stereo Equipment Rechargeable Battery
Monitor PDA Tape Player Small Appliance
Mouse Portable GPS Device Television Wires
Peripherals Smartphone Two Way Radio
Router Tablet Computer VCR
Switch Video Recorder
Zip Drive

 U.S. EPA E-Waste Definition

The U.S. EPA defines e-waste as, “waste electrical and electronic equipment that is dependent on electric currents or electromagnetic fields in order to function (including all components, subassemblies and consumables which are part of the original equipment at the time of discarding),” and may include:

  • Entertainment Electronics – TVs, DVD players, tuners
  • Office, Information, and Communications Technology – computers, telephones, mobile phones
  • Household Appliances – refrigerators, washing machines, microwaves
  • Lighting Devices – desk lamps
  • Power Tools – power drills
  • Sport and Leisure Devices – fitness machines, remote control cars

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

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