Quantifying Domestic Used Electronics Flows using a Combination of Material Flow Methodologies: A US Case Study

T. Reed Miller, Huabo Duan, Jeremy Gregory, Ramzy Kahhat, Randolph Kirchain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


This paper describes the scope, methods, data, and results of a comprehensive quantitative analysis of generation, stock, and collection of used computers and monitors in the United States, specifically desktops, laptops, CRT monitors, and flat panel monitors in the decade leading up to 2010. Generation refers to used electronics coming directly out of use or postuse storage destined for disposal or collection, which encompasses a variety of organizations gathering used electronics for recycling or reuse. Given the lack of actual statistics on flows of used electronics, two separate approaches, the sales obsolescence method (SOM) and the survey scale-up method (SSUM), were used in order to compare the results attained and provide a range for estimated quantities. This study intentionally sought to capture the uncertainty in the estimates. To do so, uncertainty in each data set was incorporated at each stage using Monte Carlo simulations for SOM and establishing scenarios for SSUM. Considering the average results across both methods, we estimate that in 2010 the U.S. generated 130-164 thousand metric tons of used computers and 128-153 thousand tons of used monitors, of which 110-116 thousand tons of used computers and 105-106 thousand tons of used monitors were collected for further reuse, recycling, or export. While each approach has its strengths and weaknesses, both the SOM and the SSUM appear to be capable of producing reasonable ranges of estimates for the generation and collection of used electronics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5711-5719
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 7 Jun 2016


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