The following article was submitted by Melissa Maranto. Melissa studied English at UCLA. She is now a magazine editor who still loves the beach as much as she did as an undergrad.
It’s estimated that up to 50 tons of electronic waste, or e-waste, is generated worldwide each year. E-waste consists of electronic devices such as computers, circuit boards and broken office supplies — anything that’s electronic that has been discarded. And while e-waste might not seem like that big of an issue going to the dump and landfill along with all of the other garbage, think again — it is a big issue and can have extreme health and environmental effects.
Many municipalities have begun to organize electronic waste recycling days where residents are invited to bring any unwanted devices for proper discarding to help reduce the amount of e-waste that hits the landfills. But e-waste still remains a worldwide problem that needs fixing and fast.
Just why does e-waste need fixing? Consider the following reasons why it can potentially be so harmful and why you should properly recycle it:
You know those old box TV sets we had before plasma, LCD and LED took over the television landscape? They contain lead, so much so that it’s estimated that it could potentially be as much as eight pounds per unit. That’s a lot of lead getting thrown out when you upgrade to better, more modernized sets. And chances are, these sets are going out on the curb with commercial waste, leading to a lot of lead in landfills. While waste industries are doing their best to dispose of dangerous items, this has the potential to become a serious health threat to humans, animals and the environment. Lead is just one example of many highly toxic chemicals that are found in e-waste, many of which can lead to reproductive disorders and cancer.
Despite some of the hazardous chemicals found in e-waste, there are also beneficial metals such as aluminum and copper which can be salvaged and sold. But then you’re opening yourself up to even further injury by risking abrasions and cuts when roaming through the dump to find materials that could be salvaged. Not to mention that it’s never a good idea to roam around a landfill with harmful chemicals and waste that could get you seriously ill. This type of scavenging leads to increased criminal activity and increased attendance at landfills. Good things don’t typically occur when you mix people and landfills.
A common way to manage trash in landfills is by burning it. Ideally, this strategy helps eliminate the waste through combustion. But it has the potential to cause great harm to the environment when e-waste is being torched. That’s because harmful chemicals often found in e-waste are even more hazardous if they enter the atmosphere and can cause more than just pollution, but a significant decline in air quality. And e-waste pollution is likely not only to affect the air, but the water quality as well.
For instance, any e-waste that sits for periods of time eroding in landfills can seep toxic chemicals into the soil. This can eventually find its way to the lakes and ponds, which then eventually trickles into the water supply. Studies have shown that residents have a higher presence of toxic metals in their blood in countries that report high e-waste numbers.
Why should you recycle e-waste? Well if all of the reasons we’ve listed off above aren’t enough, why not do it because it’s available. As we previously mentioned, many municipalities are holding electronic waste recycling days where residents can drop off old items so they can be handled properly. Many recycling centers now offer e-waste recycling as well — all it takes is a quick trip.