In today’s world, the electronic revolution has had a profound impact on our lives, changing how we communicate with each other and bringing people from all corners of the world closer. We are part of a generation that is obsessed with technology; we have all kinds of gadgets, from our household appliances to our computers and laptops, to our ever-changing cell phones.
However, our obsession with technology has a downside. We change our gadgets almost as often as we buy new clothes, and every time a new model comes out, we discard the old one. This leads to an alarming amount of electronic waste being generated. It’s important to ask ourselves where all this e-waste goes and what impact it has on the environment.
A culture of use and throw-away
The culture of use and throw-away is contributing to the increasing electronic waste or E-waste. E-waste refers to electronic devices and gadgets nearing or at the end of their useful life. This includes obsolete electronic devices, cellphones, notebooks, game consoles, and their components.
The following are some alarming facts about electronic waste worldwide:
- Did you know that we produce approximately 40 million tons of electronic waste (e-waste) each year? To put this number in perspective, it’s like throwing away 800 laptops every second! Shockingly, only 12.5% of this e-waste is recycled, and the remaining 85% end up in landfills and incinerators where they release harmful toxins into the air.
- E-waste makes up 70% of our overall toxic waste, and electronics contain hazardous substances, such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and flame retardants, which can pose a threat to our health. For instance, lead can damage our central nervous system and kidneys, and even affect a child’s mental development with low-level exposure.
- Furthermore, e-waste contains hundreds of substances, many of which are toxic. The most common hazardous electronic items include LCD desktop monitors, LCD televisions, Plasma Televisions, TVs, and computers with Cathode Ray Tubes.
- It’s alarming to note that 80% of e-waste in the U.S. and other countries is transported to Asia, where it is processed under unsafe and hazardous conditions.
- Finally, with 300 million computers and 1 billion cell phones produced annually, this number is expected to grow by 8% every year.
Is E-Waste Bad for Humans?
Many of our electronic wastes (e-waste) end up in landfills in Asia or Africa. However, the recycling method in these landfills is not what we have in mind when we think of recycling. E-waste is harmful to our planet and the workers in the landfills.
It is either buried or incinerated in landfills, polluting our land, air, and water. In most cases, these wastes are sent to developing countries, where workers extract precious metals from discarded electronics.
Workers at e-waste sites are paid only $1.50 on average per day. These laborers lack proper protection while handling toxic substances on site, making them vulnerable to inhaling harmful toxins released in the air during electronic parts incineration. It’s tragic to note that many of these workers are children.
The financial benefit to recycling electronics
- Cell phones and electronic devices contain valuable metals like gold and silver. In the United States, discarded cell phones are worth $60 million in gold and silver annually.
- Recycling 1 million laptops saves energy equivalent to what 3600 American homes consume in a year.
- Most of the components in electronic waste are reusable and can be recycled for materials recovery.
What can we do about our personal e-waste?
There are numerous options for properly disposing of your electronic devices.Your old cell phone can still be utilized by another person, as can your old computer or TV. Consider donating them to friends, charities, or community outreach programs, or even to a stranger! This is preferable to hazardous e-waste materials ending up in a landfill. Plus, you can make someone else happy in the process. It’s a win-win option!
Locate a certified e-waste recycler like PCs for People to dispose of your electronic devices. Join us in reducing electronic waste. Non-certified recyclers may send your old devices to harm the environment elsewhere. While we can’t limit your device upgrades, we can ensure proper disposal of your old ones. Reduce E-Waste. Someone else out there could benefit from your old electronics. Find them before trashing it. Let’s minimize the amount of electronic waste that ends up in landfills.