We are living in a materialistic world. We consume so much tech so it’s only natural for companies to produce much as well to keep up with the demand. Thus, it is no wonder that laptops, air conditioners, television sets, headphones, microwaves, smartphones, and other electronic gadgets have ended up as electronic waste, which the world has also been producing at astounding levels. In fact, a 2019 report states that humanity has generated record numbers of e-waste, and as with its non-electronic counterparts, increased wastes will always present a new challenge. have been
According to the Global E-Waste Monitor, a United Nations University, International Telecommunication Union, and International Solid Waste Association effort, 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste was produced in 2019, which is higher compared to 2014 levels (when the first report was published) by 9.2 million metric tons. Out of this, only 17% of the total has been recycled.
Things have gone better, but still not good enough
Actually, things have improved with the world’s increased efforts in recycling. Whereas during the 1990s and early 200s, people were at a loss on what to do with their old electronics, there have been more efforts in recycling. But then, there is also an increase in the consumption of electronics, so recycling efforts have to keep up.
“Once e-equipment becomes waste, it is hazardous. If you just dumped it in the environment, it would cause a problem,” says Richard Kirkman, chief technology and innovation officer at Veolia. Kirkman has spent the past 20 years working in the waste sector, and has amassed knowledge about seemingly every recycling process out there. But when he started, he says, everything was going to landfill. “Things have got much better [over time].”
What actually happens to e-waste?
E-waste is a huge issue because electronics contain harmful chemicals that when thrown into the landfill and left to rot, may seep into the ground and deeper into water sources that obviously, will poison us all.
Toxic additives also leak into the soil. Around 50 tonnes of mercury are contained in “undocumented flows of e-waste” annually. Mercury can damage the human brain and coordination system in large doses, and often causes soil pollution in areas around landfill.
So, what can we contribute to solving this problem?
As consumers of electronics, we have to be more conscious of throwing broken gadgets. A good number of them can be recycled, so we need to look into ways of throwing our obsolete or gadgets responsibly.
The best way to ensure that your old electronics are not contributing to the e-waste problem is by properly recycling them — a task that can be easier said than done. You can’t simply toss your old computer in the recycling bin and be done with it.
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The blog article What a Waste – Our World’s Problem With Electronic Waste is available on HDRG