Consumer electronics, like mobile phones, computers, MP3 players and televisions keep people in touch with their work world, as well as for entertainment. What most do not think about when making an electronics purchase is what they will do with the item once it breaks or becomes obsolete. Each year in the United States alone, some three million tons of commodity and electronic waste, or e-waste as it is known, is thrown away. Where does that waste end up and how does it effect our environment?
E-Waste Recycling and Disposal
Because of the difficulty and cost of electronics recycling, as well as spotty enforcement of legislation regarding e-waste exports, vast amounts of used electronics have been sent to countries such as China, Kenya and India. Lower environmental standards and working conditions make processing e-waste more profitable yet dangerously hazardous in those countries.
Being mindful of electronics disposal is a big concern. There are facilities out there that specifically deal with this hazardous material correctly.
When electronics are handled and sorted properly, e-waste is a valuable source of secondary raw materials. However, they are a major contributor of toxins and carcinogens when clumsily treated.
Fast paced technology changes, low initial cost and actual planned obsolescence have given way to a growing problem around the globe. Uncontrolled burning, dis-assembly without safety measures in place, and haphazard disposal practices are causing environmental and health problems.
Dangers of E-Waste Disposal
Waste from consumer electronics contains PCBs, cadmium, mercury and lead. Those substances are highly toxic and carcinogenic and when carelessly handled, they can contaminate our food and water supply and enter into the food chain.
Burning of these products causes toxic fumes to be emitted. This furthers the depletion of the ozone layer, as well as creating the potential of inhalation by humans and animals. PCBs have been shown to cause cancer, while cadmium, lead and mercury affect the central nervous system, which can cause cell damage and renal failure.
How many reasons do we need to recycle – or perhaps more practically, reuse – consumer electronics waste? These four reasons may convince you to begin: mercury, lead, cadmium and PCBs. They leech into soil and spill into groundwater, contaminating our food and water supply. They are known carcinogens.
By considering proper electronic waste disposal, together with the use and reuse of this type of e-waste, you will not only be helping the environment, you will be setting a good example for others to follow.