Electronic pollution is a newer concept, referring to the improper disposal of e-waste. Electronics are made with toxic chemicals and heavy metals, and when they’re not properly handled, they pose serious health risks and cause contamination of the soil, air, and groundwater.

E-waste is a broad term that refers to electronic devices and electrical appliances that have reached the end of their useful life. Common types of e-waste are cell phones, computers, televisions, refrigerators, and printers. As the world creates more and more technology, we continue to produce more and more e-waste, reinforcing a vicious cycle that’s toxic for our environment and health.

The Effects of Electronic Pollution

It is estimated that only 17.4% of all e-waste is formally collected. Many small electronics like phones, batteries, and remotes end up in household trash and end up in landfills. Larger devices can also end up in landfills or exported to landfills in developing countries if not collected properly.

When this happens, toxic materials like lead, zinc, nickel, barium, and chromium leak into the environment. Here are some of the effects these chemicals have on the environment and human health across the world:

Infographic explaining the effects of electronic pollution on the world and our health 

Leaching Toxins
When e-waste sits in a landfill, it slowly starts to break down. As devices dissolve, trace amounts of toxins leach into the ground, contaminating the soil. Rain and groundwater carry the toxins further, contaminating local ecosystems and sources of drinking water. Heat and sun exposure releases toxins into the air. This toxic chemical exposure leads to serious health consequences for people and wildlife.  
Loaded Landfills
Aside from leaching chemicals, discarded electronics take up lots of space in landfills. According to Waste Business Journal, the US has an estimated 10 to 15 years of capacity left on its current landfills. Electronics recycling can have a huge impact on slowing the rate at which landfills fill up. 
Increased Mining
Electronic pollution wastes precious resources that can be reused. When devices are thrown away, materials cannot be repurposed and new devices are made from scratch. Producing new electronics without recycling requires mining metals from the earth, contributing to pollution, erosion, deforestation, and carbon emission. 
Adverse Health Effects
Exposure to e-waste has been connected with a number of adverse health effects including adverse birth outcomes, altered neurodevelopment, adverse learning outcomes, respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, DNA damage, skin diseases, hearing loss, and cancer.

Reducing Electronic Pollution

Thankfully, recycling and proper disposal significantly reduce the toxic effects of e-waste. If your old technology still works, you can also donate or re-sell it, preventing pollution through re-use. Old and damaged electronics can be repaired, repurposed, or recycled. Here is how you can do your part to reduce electronic pollution:


You can give your devices a second life by donating your electronics to schools, libraries, and charities. Computers, phones, televisions, game systems, and other electronics all present great donation opportunities.

Trade or Sell

Some manufacturers offer trade-in or buy-back programs when upgrading your old phone, tablet, or other device. This is a convenient option if your device is in decent condition and not too old. These programs do come with restrictions and may not accept all devices.


Recyclers can recover and re-use many materials from old electronics, including gold, platinum, copper, iron, and plastic. Proper recycling safely repurposes the materials to create a circular life cycle for electronics, saving natural resources, conserving energy, and reducing electronic pollution.

Prevent Electronic Pollution with Electronics Recycling Finder

Electronics Recycling Finder makes it easy to find recycling services near you. Our experienced recyclers help preserve the environment and create a better future. Give us a call at (844) 648-4908 or fill out the form to learn more about our services and receive free quotes on electronics recycling. We thank you for doing your part in protecting the environment and combating e-waste.