Electronic Waste

E-waste (aka electronic waste) is the name given to waste nearing the end of its useful life cycle. E-waste accounts for over 70% of the toxic waste disposed of each year. This is 20-40 million metric tons of waste disposed of worldwide. With many electronics containing precious metals, it is estimated that $100 million of gold and silver end up in a landfill every year. The majority of e-waste isn’t waste at all, but then again how much of all of our waste is actually ‘waste’?
Electronics have been an integral part of globalization. With computers came access to a web of knowledge and cell phones and unending access to people across the globe. There are few things that hold us apart besides geographic area. The speed at which electronics become out of date is almost instantaneously as you buy them. This is not to say that they are suddenly obsolete but there will always be a better product out there. Over 60% of adults in developed countries own a cell phone with 87% of them being internet users. We can compare this to developing countries where 20% have cell phones and roughly 40% are internet users. When thinking about this in a large scale, that’s a lot of technology. Where does it all go?
Think about the phone you own…how long have you had it? A year, 6 months? When does your provider say you are due for a new cell phone? I know mine says about every two years I can upgrade mine for a lower cost. Rarely is there anything wrong with the devices we use but companies want to have the best technology on the market to compete with other companies. This goes for all sectors of technology like computers, software, televisions, DVD players, and the old VHS players to name a few.
The trail of e-waste is not a pretty one as with much of the waste we are discovering. Nearly 80% of electronic waste is sold to places like China, Nigeria, India, Vietnam, and Pakistan to be taken apart by cheap labor. People in China have been paid $8 a day to take apart electronics to save precious metals and other material to be refurbished and sold again. Electronic waste is highly toxic when taken apart and these workers breathe it in every day. Places doing this in China have been recorded as the highest rates of cancer in the world. With thousands of pieces of electronics thrown out each year, it is inevitable that these conditions will get increasingly worse.
The sad facts are that there aren’t many great ways to get rid of electronics. The truth of the matter is it all becomes obsolete to us. When are looking to e-cycle, research the companies you are about to turn over your products to. See where there connections lie and what they do with the electronics once you give them up. Make your electronics last longer by doing upgrades on the systems you have and take special care of them to insure they last longer. The longer they last, the less often you are throwing them away. Consider the number of electronics that your family needs. Does everyone in the family need a phone or can you get away with one or two? The same goes for computers, tablets, and e-readers, how many do you really need or are they a commodity item? When you refuse to buy more and you recycle responsibly, you not only are saving the impact on the environment but you could improve the quality of someone’s life too.



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