E-Waste and the Environment
E-Waste and the environment
E-waste is discarded electronic appliances such as mobile phones, computers and televisions. It is known for its damaging effects on our environment. Many materials in e-waste are illegally thrown onto landfill and produce hazardous elements that cause lasting damage to our natural environment and our public health. The global volume of electronic waste is expected to grow by 33% in the next four years.
Many e-waste 'processing' plants are not ethically run or safe. Some e-waste traffickers burn open computer wires to get the copper inside. The burning of this releases hydrocarbons into the air. In Ghana, many young people work in slums burning discarded electronics and releasing toxic fumes into the air.
The developed world has in the past exported an estimated 23% of its electronic waste to 7 developing countries. This results in huge landfill sites full with e-waste. According to a report China generated 11.1m tonnes of e-waste last year.
Cathode ray tubes are often found in older televisions, video cameras and computer monitors are frequently broken apart, the yoke removed and the shell dumped. Lead and barium are contents found in the shell, and could leach through the soil and into the ground water of local communities. This endangers not just the people who drink and bathe with this water but also the different species of wildlife that rely on the water to sustain.
A study of the Guiyu landfill found wind patterns in Southeast China disperse toxic particles across the Pearl River Delta Region. The area has a population of 45 million and is at-risk due to the toxins entering the “soil-crop-food pathway,” which is one of the most common ways that heavy metals enter the human body.
How do I dispose safely and ethically?
There are many ways to properly reuse or recycle electronic devices – and it is not by leaving your junk printer on the curb. Find a certified e-waste recycler in your area that you can recycle your electronics safely. Or if your devices still have life left in them, you can donate them to people who wouldn't otherwise have access to them.