The biggest e-waste offenders

Smart phones

The liquid crystalline found in some LCD screens includes the toxic element mercury and bromine-based flame retardants often coat the plastics shells of a handset. A typical cell phone battery will also contain cadmium, while the circuit board often contains lead, cadmium, arsenic and antimony. Many of these materials only become toxic, and thus harmful, when incinerated


The computer screen is one of the biggest offenders in the world of e-waste. The rear glass tube of a cathorde ray tube (CRT) monitor is often made of leaded glass, with the front-end containing barium. Many monitors also contain mercury bulbs. Barium oxide may be contained in the getter plate of the electron gun and the interior surface of the screen, in addition to a phosphor coating.


In a multi-function printer, fluorescent bulbs that contain mercury will be found in the LCD backlighting or optical lens of the device’s photocopying and scanning functions. Another big area of concern is the printer’s colour and ink toner cartridges. In addition to posing an explosion hazard, the fine particles found in the ink cartridges can pose a danger to workers if it goes through the mechanical shredder.


In a portable computer, mercury bulbs found in the screen are a big substance of concern for e-recyclers. Just like in your average smart phone, the hard plastic shells contain brominated flame retardants which create dangerous particles if shredded. In a typical circuit board, hazardous materials could include barium and cadmium, which can be found in plated contacts and switches. Coin cell batteries on motherboards must also be removed before destroying the inside of a desktop.

Non-traditional IT items

A Forrester Research Inc. report on IT asset disposition includes a checklist of key IT hardware devices that must be accounted for. The list includes power supplies, network cables, storage disks and many officer peripherals. But the research firm also warns asset managers about other technologies, such as point-of-sale equipment, laboratory equipment, medical test equipment, automated teller machines.

Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Featured Download

ITW in your inbox

Our experienced team of journalists and bloggers bring you engaging in-depth interviews, videos and content targeted to IT professionals and line-of-business executives.

More Slideshows

Top Tech News