Where Does All of Our Electronic Waste Go?
We use our smart phones, our laptops, smart watches and all of the other tech gear out there and then when it fails or we just want to upgrade what do we do with the old equipment? Well if we are honest about it, most of us will put it in a closet or drawer and forget about it. Then at some point we rediscover these items and decide to just throw them out in the trash.
But some of us do the right thing and bring it to a recycling center. Have you ever wondered where a lot of this E-waste ends up?
Bit Rot said “About 80 percent of the e-waste produced in developed countries (North America and Europe are on the top of the list) is not disposed of in these countries, but shipped, most of the time illegally, to developing countries on cargo ships, where it is illegally disposed of.”
As our insatiable appetite for better & faster electronic gadgets grows the mountains of toxic trash continues to increase poisoning people and planet alike. The trash is not just old Blackberry’s and MacBooks, but includes old refrigerators, televisions, toys and more. Think of it in terms of if its electronic it’s sure to become outdated and thrown out to be replaced with newer, faster & better stuff.
Most of this e-waste is finding it’s way to countries like India, China and some African regions. “It is hazardous waste, containing dozens of substances dangerous to human health and the environment; it is hard to be sustainable disposed of and it needs a costly processing technique to make it recyclable” says Bit Rot.
Some illegal electronic waste does occur in the U.S. but the appeal of sending e-waste overseas as always comes down to cost and fewer regulations. It seems we never learn and are always taking mother nature for granted. There was a time in the U.S. that businesses would just dump all of their waste into the nearest stream or river. In many cases the pollution was so bad we are still feeling the effects to this day. This has all but stopped but we are faced with basically the same scenario but instead of dumping pollutants into our own rivers we dump our e-waste into someone else backyard.
According to a 2013 United Nations report China is “grappling with the reality of an estimated 20 percent annual rise in domestically generated e-waste combined with a role as one of the planet’s primary dumping grounds for global e-waste—a massive environmental, social and economic burden.”
There’s a town in China called Guiyu that has become a major e-wastebasket. Workers burn or process tech gear with hydrochloric acid to recover valuable metals like copper and steel. In the process, it releases toxic heavy metals like lead, beryllium and cadmium into the environment. This has released hydrocarbon ashes into the air, water and soil thus polluting them in China.
Just about all of the salvaged junk ends up back in our homes according to one e-waste worker that CNN spoke to. The plastic gets sold to Foxconn, a Taiwanese company that manufactures products for many global electronics companies such as Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard.
“The commercialization process and the capitalistic valorization created a true ‘waste economy,’” Bit Rot observed. “This extends the logic behind profit and exploitation even to those scraps that it had produced, creating a never ending cycle that profits from its own death.”
This has become a worldwide problem that is going to take everyone’s participation to solve. The UN’s Step Initiative is tackling the world’s behemoth e-waste crisis. EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia told U.S. News: “serious concerns about unsafe handling of used electronics, especially discarded electronics or e-waste, both domestically and overseas, that results in harm to human health and the environment”.
Here at home you can learn how to responsibly dispose of your tech gear by reading EcoWatch “Are You Making These 7 Common Recycling Mistakes” . You can also find out if there is a e-cycling center near you by following the link.
If we all do our part I believe we can make a difference.
One way to help stem the flow of e-waste is to buy remanufactured ink and toner cartridges for your printers. This industry recycles and remanufactures empty ink and toner cartridges thereby extending the life of these products. When you buy remanufactured products of any kind you are effectively keeping these recyclable products from ending up in the e-waste dumps of the world.
Before running out and buying the latest and greatest new tech gear is it possible to just upgrade what you have? Many times you can get the same results you are looking for by upgrading saving you hundreds of dollars and again helping to stem the flow of e-waste into our environment.
Now it’s your turn, what’s your idea on how we can all help with this global problem?