E-waste, also known electronic waste refers to the electronic products that are dumped if they no longer work or have become obsolete. It isn’t unusual to see the life of electronic gadgets becoming shorter and shorter with each passing day.
Due to the pace of technological development and the way it is advancing, electronic devices are achieving the status of ‘trash’ much sooner compared to those of yesteryear. For example, VCRs became trash when they got replaced by the DVD players, which in turn are being replaced by blu-ray players. Don’t be surprised if you see something new taking the place of blu-ray players in the next few years or even months!
Discarded computers, CD players, TVs, cell phones, printers, fax machines, etc., contribute to e-waste. However, e-waste doesn’t necessarily mean an entire electronic device. It can even be the components that make up the electronic devices, such as batteries, circuit boards, PVC tubes, glass screens, LEDs, etc.
How is E-Waste Tackled
E-waste is being generated in massive quantities. According to the UN report, only 16% was recycled by officially sanctioned government or commercial enterprises in 2014. Three things happen to the rest of the e-waste:
- Thrown in the trash ending up in a landfill or an incinerator
- Collected by private companies or individuals for refurbishing or processed into separate materials
- Used as a secondary market for used electronics and raw materials in the developing world
How Does E-Waste Affect the Environment and Us
Most electronic devices contain high levels of lead which is really dangerous. You can find lead in the solder present on the motherboard of computers, TVs, glass panels of computer monitors and lead batteries. When it gets exposed, it can contaminate air, soil and water.
When the contaminated element enters our body system through air, food or water, it distorts the process of brain development and poses severe damage to the kidneys and central nervous system. Lead poisoning contributes as the most dangerous hazard of e-waste and hence make recycling e-waste a must.
E-waste contains high levels of mercury as well. When mercury is not disposed of properly, it may create respiratory and skin disorders. Additionally, mercury poisoning also causes acute brain damage. The PVC panels, cables and glass present in the electronic devices may react with oxygen and moisture, creating hazardous soil.
Not only will it be unsafe for growing plants but it can even be unsuitable for building a home as it will contaminate the air, putting the health of occupants’ at risk.
Mercury poising may lead to side effects such as reduced reproduction, abnormal bodily development, and a compromised immune system. Other health related issues include anxiety, stress and mental problems that are a result of breathing air polluted with glass, PVC and other forms of plastic remains found in electronic items.
Lung cancer is also a possibility if you inhale the air polluted by the fumes released when the motherboard elements react and create Beryllium. Skin diseases and certain forms of serious allergies can also occur.
Unfortunately, there is no proper technique yet to eliminate e-waste completely. This means that you have to improvise while discarding electronic gadgets that you no longer need or use.
Two popular treatments include recycling and refurbishing:
- It might not be possible to recycle every electronic device completely but check carefully for recycling parts and send them for e-waste recycling.
- Refurbishing is also a good idea to consider. If you do not need any electronic gadget, check with a vendor if it can be refurbished or donate it to someone who can get it fixed and use for themselves.
E-waste is inevitable in the current times, but it is important to make sure that it is disposed of in the right manner, without affecting the people and environment.
Erich Lawson is passionate about saving the environment by effective recycling. He has written a wide array of articles on how modern recycling equipments can be used by industries to reduce monthly garbage bills and increase recycling revenue. You can learn more about environment savings techniques by visiting Northern California Compactors, Inc blog
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