When we think of waste, we often think of plastic bottles filling up the ocean and our sidewalks. We see candy wrappers flying through the air. We acknowledge the amount of food thrown out while so many people in the world go hungry. There are SO many forms of waste that need to be addressed and solved, but e-waste is one of the worst offenders, and often the most overlooked, too.
Electronics surround us. Our mobile phones come with us everywhere, and our laptops are close behind. Look around in your home and find your TV, computer, USB drives, printers, home assistants, and more making up a large part of your existence. Perhaps you have a closet where you keep all of your outdated electronics as well.
Because of such rapid advances in technology, electronic products become obsolete seemingly by the second. And while an electronic’s prime comes and goes, sales skyrocket for the newest items. The end result is, even if products still work, they’re either sitting around collecting dust, or we’re dumping them in the trash.
But just become not enough attention gets placed on electronic waste doesn’t mean it’s not worrisome. In fact, it’s a huge environmental and economic issue, both because people aren’t properly recycling as well as because many devices can’t be recycled efficiently.
Simply put, electronics aren’t environmentally friendly. They have various harmful chemicals, like mercury, cadmium, lead, phosphors, arsenic, and beryllium, that, when dumped into a landfill, leak into the ground and make their way into our water supply. Monitors and televisions with tubes, for example, have between four and eight pounds of lead in them, while most flat panel monitors and TVs now have less lead but more mercury.
With 50 million tonnes of e-waste generated annually, and only a dismal 12% recycled, it’s imperative we learn how to take action.
Of the little that does get recycled, much of it gets shipped overseas, poisoning people, the land, air, and water — predominantly in developing countries.
“The big problem the electronics industry is facing as a whole is products are getting lighter and lighter,” explained iFixit’s Kyle Wiens. “This is great for consumers but a nightmare for recyclers.” The smaller and lighter a product, the more difficult it is to dismantle and make for a smaller volume of raw materials. Glue and adhesives, the number of screws (especially non-standard screws), materials made with hazardous materials like mercury, large amounts of glass, plastics, and waterproof and tightly sealed products also create huge challenges.
Properly disposing of electronics is therefore essential, and should happen through programs offered by device manufacturers like Asus, Samsung, or Apple, or retailers such as Best Buy or Staples.
Other important actions to consider include following the device instructions to extend its life, donating unwanted items to charity, and recycling using an organization that’s devoted to reducing e-waste.
The following infographic from DigitalDocRepair.com presents some valuable insight on the issue of e-waste, while also revealing ways to lessen your footprint. Learn more about where e-waste ends up, the devices that are the biggest offenders, and ways to fight the problem below:
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