What happens to e-waste?

How E-Waste Hurts People and the Environment

What happens to the computer equipment that you own when it breaks, becomes obsolete or is replaced with newer equipment? It becomes electronic and electrical waste, otherwise known as e-waste. As you might imagine from the prevalence of technology across the globe, the amount of e-waste produced every year is substantial. Around 50 million tons to be exact. That is an amount that weighs more than all of the commercial airliners ever made. Only 20% of all that e-waste is formally recycled, with the rest ending up in landfill or being informally recycled through unsafe and/or environmentally unfriendly methods.

By 2050, the amount of global e-waste produced is expected to reach 120 million tons. Should we be concerned? The short answer is yes. The toll e-waste is taking on people and the environment is affecting us today and will affect us for generations to come.

e-Waste Creates Health Risks

Oftentimes, e-waste is informally recycled, which means that it is recycled using the cheapest dismantling methods possible without regard for impact on the health or safety of the workers or the environment. Most e-waste ends up in developing countries where people sort through the equipment by hand for any valuable materials, leaving everything leftover in large dumpsites that pollute the surrounding environment.

Since e-waste can contain toxic substances such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, the people sorting through the e-waste, including children who often do not wear protective gear, are exposed to these toxic substances. Exposure to these toxins can affect children’s neurological development and cause other severe health issues for the workers and surrounding communities.

e-Waste Pollutes Air, Soil and Water

Methods such as burning or dousing e-waste in acid are used to destroy or extract valuable materials from the e-waste. These unsophisticated extraction methods create additional health risks for the workers dismantling the e-waste and pollute the air by releasing harmful fumes and chemicals, which contribute to climate change.

Toxic substances from e-waste in landfill can seep into the ground or water supplies. As a result, toxins end up in food and water that are then consumed by animals and people.

What Can You Do to Help Solve This Problem?

  • Exercise care when determining whether to purchase a new electronic device. Ask yourself if the purchase is really necessary.
  • Try to repair or fix electronics to extend their lifecycle.
  • Donate, sell, or recycle out-of-use electronics to a reputable organization that is committed to responsible recycling, such as an organization with an R2 or an e-Stewards certification, and that is committed to protecting the health and safety of their workers.

Do you need help with an e-waste disposal project? Respecting the environment is one of Dispoteca’s core values and we have a zero landfill policy. Our platform will guide you through your e-waste disposal project so you can ensure your organization is doing its part in the fight against e-waste pollution.

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