‘Binning’ PCs: Is America still sinning?


    Nearly one out of
    three respondents
    have binned their PCs!

    28% of respondents have junked their old PCs in the trash at least once!

    Given the inroads that technology has made into our lives, it should come as no surprise that Americans now own approximately 24 electronic devices per household, according to the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association). Of these, the PC is still a staple even though the mobile is fast becoming the new PC. Given the huge number of PCs in use currently, what does America do with them once they lose their utility? This survey seeks to cast light on our disposal habits. Do we recycle, do we donate or do we simply trash the PCs we don't want?


    Yet there is Hope!

    Despite old habits and many lapses,here's what our respondents did the last time they replaced their PCs:

    41% recycled their PCs
    of these:

    85% used a third party recycler
    15% returned to company
    45% donated their PCs
    of these:

    45% to friends and family
    21% to charity organizations
  • Introduction

    'green guilt'

    E-waste represents


    of America's
    Trash in landfills,

    but it equals 70% of overall toxic waste.

    'Green guilt' is eating up 29% of Americans and with good reason: Up to 80 percent of America's annual e-waste is not recycled, representing approximately 300 to 400 million electric devices being dumped into landfills. E-waste represents 2% of America's trash in landfills, but it equals 70% of overall toxic waste. That's because of the lead, mercury, cadmium content in e-waste. It's not as yet illegal in all states for homeowners to leave out their PC or electronic items for the trash man but businesses and institutions are bound by law to recycle. However, whether a computer comes from a business or a home, it is never intended to end up in a landfill. At least 25 states have passed e-waste recycling laws. These laws require electronics manufacturers to pay for the costs of collecting and recycling TVs, computers, laptops, and monitors.

    Here's what our survey found!

    PCs are changed often!


    respondents changed their PCs in the last three years

    Upgrading and replacing are the order of the day. Each time people upgrade to new technologies, new platforms and new operating systems, they find it easier to replace an outdated computer than keep replacing components. Most of our respondents have changed their PCs in the last three years:

    • 17% changed them this year
    • 14% changed them a year ago
    • 18% changed them 2 years ago
    • 13% changed them 3 years ago

    In fact, after Windows 8 is launched in October 2012, chances are we may see a significant increase in PC replacement as people upgrade to a newer operating system that is likely to need superior computing power. They could switch either to other PCs or laptops or even tablets.


    When in doubt,

    BIN YOUR PC! 28%

    respondents have junked their old PCs in the trash, at least once

    Even though a majority of the respondents are aware of the harmful environmental effects of junking PCs in the trash, one out of three have done so, at least once. In spite of the fact that 53.31% of those who dumped their last PC in the garbage are aware that chucking PCs in the trash is bad practice from an environmental perspective. It seems that a legal deterrent is needed for recycling to become the norm. Currently, 25 American states have passed e waste legislation mandating statewide E-waste recycling. Several other states are working at passing new laws or improving on existing laws. All laws except California and Utah use the Producer Responsibility approach, where the manufacturers must pay for recycling. In short, this means that 65% of the American population is now covered by a state e-waste recycling law. In 17 U.S. states, it's actually illegal to dump computers, printers, and TVs in the trash. Connecticut, Indiana, New Jersey, New York (for businesses), North Carolina, South Carolina, and Vermont are some states that have banned electronic waste from landfills, requiring it to be recycled so that its toxic materials don't leach into the groundwater. Seven of these bans took effect in 2011, one in Illinois from January 2012 and one more will take effect soon in Pennsylvania, from January 2013.


    Nearly ONE OUT OF TEN
    binned despite having
    recycled before!

    7% respondents binned PCs despite having recycled before

    This is of concern as nearly one out of ten respondents had recycled their PCs previously. Clearly, people need more options and more knowledge of how not recycling can impact their lives and their immediate environment. Education is the need of the day and constant reinforcement of the harmful effects of not recycling e-waste. People need to know that the toxins in computers and other electronic waste include lead, mercury, and cadmium, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's E-Cycling Program. They need to be made aware that a typical computer monitor is likely to contain more than six percent of lead by weight; mercury is commonly found in relays and switches, while cadmium is found in chip resistors, infrared detectors and semiconductors.

    The health risks are serious. The EPA claims that consumer electronics may be responsible for as much as 40 percent of the lead found in landfills; when it leaks, it can contaminate drinking water. When mercury hits the waterways, it transforms into methylated mercury in the sediment, which accumulates in living organisms and travels up the food chain to the food Americans eat. In significant amounts, it can cause brain damage in humans.

    A whopping majority knows binning
    PCs is harmful! 86%

    respondents know it
    is harmful to the Earth to bin electronics!

    If the majority of respondents know that 'binning' is wrong, why do so many do so? A recent survey done by Call2Recycle, a noted non-profit devoted to this cause reveals that often, people are confused, do not have viable options or are still uninformed about how to dispose of their e-waste. When asked what barriers to recycling exist, 44 percent cite not knowing how or where to recycle old technology, while 19 percent ascribe it to a local store not offering a program. Other constraints mentioned include difficulty finding a collection event (16 percent) and lack of municipal recycling options (15 percent). Reasons for not doing more to protect the environment in general include not knowing what to do (32 percent); and not having the time (26 percent). Persistent education, social and media pressure and regular e-recycling events, might hold the key.

    Registering with a recycler is still a
    big NO! 74%

    respondents do not
    want to register with
    a third party recycler!

    For various reasons, most respondents are reluctant to register with a recycler. Maybe it is because they wish to keep their choices open or maybe they do not have one nearby probably not one they know about, anyway. Lack of information about e-recycling and e-recyclers as well as lack of proximity to such a service is possibly a major reason why recycling and managing e-waste is not as common as it needs to be.


    Yet there is


    Last time they

    replaced their PCs...

    Despite old habits and many lapses, here's what our respondents did:

    41% recycled their PCs

    of these:

    85% used a third party recycler
    15% returned them to the company
    45% donated their PCs

    of these:

    45% gave to friends and family
    21% gave to charity organizations such as Salvation Army,Red Cross and local non-profits,among others.
    How does this compare with national averages?

    In 2010, America got rid of 2.4 million tons of ewaste totally that translates into 384 million units (EPA 2010). That means we got rid of (trashed or recycled) 142,000 computers and over 416,000 mobile devices EVERY DAY!! Of this, 423,000 tons were computers, laptops and CPUs; that is 51,900,000 units. Only 168,000 was recycled that is, 20,600,000 units.

    A recent survey conducted by Call2Recycle, shows that many Americans have good intentions and 29% suffer from 'Green Guilt'. 84% say they have recycled in the past year to help the environment; as well as turned out lights/unplugged rechargers (68%); and purchased "green" products (53%). Nearly 25% say they recycle their electronics if they can reap a financial benefit.

    Our respondents scored well - when it comes to the last PC they have replaced, nearly 41% say they have recycled it while 45% say they have donated it. Only a little more than 14% claimed to have trashed their last PC. That's very good going

    Why aren't Americans doing better at recycling?

    The reasons are varied and stem from problems at different process points. Geography is a barrier; lack of financial incentive is another and for many people, lack of legal compulsion and sheer ignorance of the impact of not recycling are yet other reasons why they may not go out of their way to make an effort.

    "The problem is that there simply are not enough recycling companies to handle the volume of electronics," says Mitchell Runko, Director of Operations, Supreme Computer Recycling, Inc, one of the larger players in the field. Quoted in Cynthia Allen's feature on Call2Recycle.org, he goes on to add, "We replace our computers, and the components we use with them, every two years or so, and most of us don't recycle them. Multiply the number of people by the number of computers they have and it's easy to see how we're facing a crisis."

    Further, people are confused and don't know whom to turn to. Checking online for a local recycler, keeping a look out for recycling events by non-profits and government agencies, finding information on recycling programs run by manufacturers and retailers such as Best Buy, HP and Apple, are good ways to discover suitable recycling avenues.


    It's easy to upgrade to a new PC and most of us do so every couple of years or even sooner but then what do you do with the old one? This iYogi Insights consumer research on e-waste disposal seeks to understand how the average American handles e-waste and the eco-sensitive issue of discarding the old PC when acquiring a new one.

    This survey, conducted over two days, covered iYogi subscribers through an online form following their support sessions. A total of 2227 respondents filled the online survey form consisting of 5-6 questions requesting details on e-waste disposal habits and preferences. The data collected was collated, analyzed and compared to identify, assess and quantify trends and patterns.


    DISCLAIMER: "Affiliation of any third party organization is not implied, unless expressly stated."

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