The agency also says that coal-fired power plants are the greatest source of environmental mercury -- U.S. power plants emitted 50 tons of mercury in 2006 -- and using compact fluorescent bulbs cuts down on the amount of coal burned to make electricity.
Retailers are seizing on "green" marketing opportunities by launching recycling initiatives.
Best Buy Co. last year started a program that sponsors local drop-off events around the country, where people can bring in carloads of unused items.
In October, Office Depot Inc. began selling recycling "boxes" at $5 to $15 that customers fill with office items such as laptops and fax machines to be recycled. (The company says the cost of the box helps fund the program.)
Ace Hardware retailers in the Chicago area and Wisconsin last year started programs to recycle mercury-containing compact fluorescent bulbs; Wal-Mart Stores Inc. held a pilot take-back day last summer at 350 of its stores.
Meanwhile, states are tightening their waste laws: Minnesota, for example, passed a law in 2007 that requires manufacturers of TVs and computers to collect and recycle by weight 60 percent of what they sold in the previous year.
Computers, televisions and other electronics contain materials such as lead, cadmium and mercury, which can pose a risk to human health and the environment.
Energy Star-labeled electronics -- touted as eco-friendly due to the energy they save -- still contain hazardous materials. The mercury in LCD TV screens and the lead in computer monitors, for example, may contaminate soil or water if not handled properly.
There's no federal law for the disposal of consumer electronics, though a handful of states have made it illegal to throw them in the trash.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, old consumer electronics accounted for about 1.5 percent of 250 million tons of trash in 2006, up from 1 percent in 2000.
According to a 2006 report from the International Association of Electronics Recyclers, an industry group based in Albany, N.Y., roughly 15 percent to 20 percent of electronic waste was recycled, up from 10 percent to 15 percent in 2003. The figures don't include products that were returned to manufacturers for recycling.
Some environmental advocates and researchers warn that many recycled items may end up in landfills anyway, or be recycled improperly, especially in poorer countries.
Nevertheless, more people are interested in recycling.