BY DEANNA ROLDAN
E-waste recycling is vital to protecting our environment and reducing waste in landfills. Improper methods of discarding e-waste can lead to pollution and threaten our environment.
With an ever growing improvement in technology throughout the past few decades, electronic products come and go. We, as consumers, use products that are advertised to us until something better comes along. But as we replace our electronic devices for the newest models, what happens to our old devices? E-waste recycling is the best solution to this problem but can be overlooked, causing multiple complications in the health of the environment and of people.
E-waste recycling is meant to refurbish old phone parts to create something new and functional. The first step in recycling e-waste is collecting it and preventing it from accumulating in landfills. It is then sorted into categories and disassembled. Some of the materials that can be reused include hard drives, copper, mercury, circuit boards, batteries, and glass. This process encourages reusing existing materials instead of creating new materials that will only be discarded and fuel the cycle of harmful e-waste.
The large influx of e-waste in countries like the United States often disappears by dumping these materials in developing countries. The sad reality is that the people who create the problem do not experience the consequences. This problem will only worsen as e-waste is predicted to increase by 33% in the next four years. Dumping e-waste in developing countries, where the people have no say in their health, creates an environmental justice issue. Continuing to dump e-waste in developing countries does not solve the problem of getting rid of e-waste, it only makes the problem disappear for countries like the United States without effectively addressing it at the expense of others.
When e-waste is not recycled, its ultimate destination is the landfill. It is estimated by the EPA that 50 million metric tons of e-waste ends up in landfills every year. In 2009, only 25% of discarded e-waste was actually recycled. This data leaves 75% of e-waste unaccounted for, suggesting it ended up in a landfill. This large sum of waste ends up creating problems. When this e-waste is left in landfills, e-waste can easily leak toxic chemicals that can enter the environment and contaminate the soil, water, and the air. This pollution impacts humans, leaving them vulnerable by developing diseases such as cancer.
E-waste recycling is as important as ever. New technology breeds creativity but our solutions seem to fall short when it comes to protecting our environment. The consequences of improperly disposing e-waste are too alarming to be ignored. The most efficient way for us to be part of the solution is becoming aware of our options. Using our devices to their fullest potential can reduce our waste and desire to constantly replace. Find locations near you to properly recycle your e-waste.