Electronics are generally expensive investments, so it’s safe to assume that they’re not often disposed of, right? Well, unfortunately that’s not exactly the case. Most people upgrade cell phones every few years, hold onto old game systems for only a little while, and turn in their old computers for new when possible. We don’t throw out that much as individuals.
Altogether though, we throw out a lot.
About 50 million metric tons of e-waste are generated each year. To put this in perspective, the pile of electronics humans throw out each year weighs as much as 784 aircraft carriers.
Why is this a Problem?
50 million tons is a lot, but it’s nowhere near as much as other types of waste, like construction/demolition, or even household plastics. Where e-waste gets scary, though, is in the toxic chemicals it contains. E-waste contains lead, mercury, nickel, and cadmium, all of which are poisonous heavy metals, as well as by-products like dioxins and halogens.
All these chemicals leach out of dumps and traditional landfills. In the First World, e-waste must be put into specially prepared landfills to prevent leaching. However, many cities choose instead to ship their waste to developing countries, especially in South Asia, where disposal laws are lax.
This is causing a growing health crisis in the world, as more and more poisons make it into the water supply and ocean food chain. Mercury content in the sea is so high that fish on top of the food chain, like tuna, are already worryingly toxic and may soon be inedible.
Can this be Controlled?
The United Nations sent a committee to look into the problem. Their conclusion was that the majority of toxic e-waste could be recycled into new electronics. To recycle them properly, they need manual dismantling. Workers will have to break electronics down by hand and then sort them before valuable materials can be recovered. This is expensive, but will provide jobs to many.
This will also provide additional raw materials for electronics manufacturers. As certain metals become rare, recycling e-waste properly will help keep the prices of electronics down.
What You Can Do
Junk It! takes pride in recycling everything possible, including e-waste. Your simplest solution is to give us a call and we’ll take it for you!Written May 4, 2015 by