E-waste has become a serious threat to our environment as more and more gadgets are thrown out after usage into dustbins. This leads to toxic pollution, as electronics break down and release heavy metals, flame retardants, and other chemicals into soil and water.
To address the problem, environmentalists have been pushing for laws in the U.S. and abroad that require companies that manufacture cell phones, computers, and other electronic gadgets to recycle their own e-waste. In fact, responsibly recycling e-waste is a growing field that is providing new green jobs and keeping toxic chemicals out of our land and water.
India is thought to process around eight hundred thousand tons of e-waste every year. However, in that country there are only a few recycling firms registered under the government to process e-waste, meaning a lot of used electronic gadgets are dismantled and dumped in the informal sector, sometimes without proper care to protect laborers or the environment from toxic components.
To stem the environmental toll, India passed a ban on importing used computers, although a lot of e-waste has still made it into the country under the auspices of donations. Combined with the large domestic source of used equipment, it’s still a heap of stuff. An environmental nonprofit called Toxics Link and Greenpeace India are working with the MAIT, Manufacturer’s Association of Information Technology, to try and create better standards for dealing with e-waste there.
The situation is similar across much of the developing world, according to a recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme. China, for instance, deals with 500,000 tonnes of refrigerators, 1.3 million tonnes of TVs, and 300,000 tonnes of personal computers a year. Some of that is handled in sophisticated factories, but not all.
In the United States, it’s estimated that 4 million tons of e-waste gets dumped in landfills every year, based on reports from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). U.S. dismantlers are much more closely regulated, although American companies and cities have long been accused of shipping material–and thus their toxic burden–overseas.
One challenge in dealing with e-waste is that it is generated post consumer, unlike more traditional industrial pollutants. This requires different legal guidelines.
Some of the benefits of e-waste recycling include:
1. Conservation of natural resources:
E-waste has a lot of recoverable and valuable resources like plastics, gold, copper, aluminum, and iron. To preserve our natural resources, all e-waste should be recycled and reused instead of dumped into landfills.
Continue reading at National Geographic