A Growing Concern: The Impact of E-Waste

Electronic waste, also known as e-waste, is the disposal of technological devices like computers, phones, printers, and other non-biodegradable electronic devices. It has become a growing concern for Earth’s environment and the amount of e-waste increases every year. Currently, the world produces approximately 40 million tons of e-waste a year. The U.S. alone produces 3.3 million tons a year and this number is expected to increase in the future.

The U.S. only recycles about 20% of the e-waste and ships the remaining 80% to domestic landfills or landfills in countries that have weak health code enforcement and are able to process the waste at a fraction of the cost. There has been some effort to combat this growing concern with initiatives that focus on recycling this type of waste.  These initiatives take old consumer electronics, harvest the reusable materials, and either crush the plastic down into a powder for reuse or ship the remaining materials to landfills.

Impact of E-Waste

The Impact of E-Waste

The impact on the environment from e-waste is becoming more of an issue with the constant production of these technological devices. The elements found in these products have traces of lead, zinc, mercury, and cadmium. These elements can seep into the water tables and compromise water quality and the health of the people who consume the water.  China and India are impacted the most by e-waste because they process the majority of it, leaving the workers with exposure to these harmful toxins. There are also high concentrations of toxins in the soil and air in these countries, which could be an indicator of harmful effects to the environment’s future.

Initiatives and Solutions

Luckily, there have been some regulations and initiatives set in place to combat this growing concern.  New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation has enacted the NYS Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act. This conservation law requires manufacturers to provide free recycling of e-waste to consumers.

The eligible consumers consist of businesses and corporations that have less than 50 full time employees. Not-for profit organizations are eligible if they have less than 75 full time employees.  The businesses and corporations that exceed the eligible number of employees may be charged for their disposal.  Government departments aren’t the only entities that are making strides to fix this issue.

Private businesses and other corporate chains like Best Buy have rolled out a recycling initiative. Best Buy will take old or unused consumer products no matter where you purchased them and send it to their recycling facilities. They promise to recycle the e-waste responsibly and to maintain health code enforcement for the workers and the environment.  This type of recycling has even inspired smaller business to lend a hand in the preservation of the environment by allowing consumers to get money back for recycling old cell phones.

You may have seen advertisements for these smaller businesses with captions of “sell my cell phone” and “ecoATMs.” The reason why you get money back is because these businesses are harvesting the gold and other higher value elements out of your old cell phones. They benefit, you benefit, and in turn, the environment benefits.

Phil Bosco is a part of an elite team of writers who have contributed to hundreds of blogs and news sites. Follow him @philthomastalk.

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