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What chemicals make throwing away technology (i.e. batteries) in the regular trash so harmful for the environment? What do these chemicals do to the environment?
Question Date: 2010-01-25
Answer 1:

Thank you for an excellent question. Sometimes it seems like it would be easiest to throw batteries and electronics away in the trash, but there are reasons why that is a bad idea.

Lets start with batteries. Old batteries had mercury in them, which is very harmful to humans and the environment. If youve ever used an old thermometer those have mercury in them as well, and you were probably told to be very careful not to break them. Newer batteries do not contain mercury but should still be recycled. One popular type of newer battery is nickel-cadmium. These are very safe to use, but over time in a landfill the cadmium can contaminate the environment and ground water which can lead to blood and reproductive issues in humans. You should also recycle car batteries for similar reasons.

Other items that should be recycled or disposed of properly include appliances and electronics, for example old refrigerators and computer monitors. Old refrigerators contain harmful refrigerants (chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs) which can destroy the ozone if discarded into the environment. Electronics such as computers and TVs can be made from metals such as cadmium, mercury, and lead- which can all possibly seep into groundwater if disposed of improperly and cause problems for the environment, including harming plants, animals, or humans that come in contact with contamination. When you buy electronics, you can ask the store that sells them to you what is the best way to dispose of them.

The best way to minimize waste due to these products is to dispose of batteries properly (somewhere that recycles them), and use your electronics as long as you can so you are not constantly getting rid of hazardous metal waste. Thank you for your question!

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