What is e-waste, and what are the e-waste problems? Electronic waste (e-waste) is defined in general as any used electronic devices or components that need to be disposed of properly. When we toss our laptops, batteries, light bulbs or other gadgets into the garbage, we are shipping our e-waste to landfills, where it accumulates and poses a risk to human beings and to the earth.
What are the e-waste problems associated with the environment?
E-waste builds up in our landfills and gets heated by the sun, where it emits harmful gases and seeps in to the soil. E-waste doesn’t just affect humans, it hurts sea mammals, birds, aquamarine life and animals. The soil and air that is now polluted contaminates our crops, vegetables, flowers, shrubs, trees, grasses, saplings and herbs. Essentially every person and every organism that is exposed to e-Waste are put at risk.
What are the e-waste problems associated with people?
Electronic waste is harmful because it contains toxic material, like lead, mercury, cadmium, beryllium and arsenic. A big e-waste problem is brominated flame retardants. When these are burned or heated they create even more toxins that we get exposed to, like furans, and halogenated dioxins. If those names sound scary to you, know that they should – these are some of the most toxic substances for humans that exist. When we throw out electronics rather than recycle or reuse them, we are causing the people around us to develop endocrine disruption, reproductive disorders, and cancer because of these toxic substances we allow to leak out.
The lead in e-waste will build up in the body as it is toxic to your kidneys, and will eventually negatively impact the reproductive system and the nervous system. Even our children are affected, as lead causes an impairment in mental development. The e-waste problem of brominated flame retardants is associated with thyroid problems and fetal damage. Barium in e-waste causes your brain to swell after only a short exposure! It also causes heart, spleen and liver damage. Mercury has been proven to harm developing fetuses, and babies are in jeopardy because mercury is passed through mothers’ milk.
E-Waste Problems: What do we do?
Our e-waste problems are growing, because the shelf life of our electronic devices is decreasing. As we are pressured to get the latest and greatest technology, and as technology exponentially gets more and more advanced, electric devices are becoming obsolete or no longer relevant sooner. Even if electronics still work nowadays, they are still being disposed of, rather than being handled properly.
E-waste can be addressed in four different ways. We can throw our e-waste out, causing the problems that were just discussed. We can choose to recycle our electronic devices. You should always recycle specific light bulbs, and used batteries, for example. The third way to deal with the e-waste problem is to reuse the products we no longer need. People can donate their old gadgets, or send them back to the manufacturer so that they can repurpose the product. The final solution to the e-waste problem is to sell your used devices before they get too old, any of these three solutions are effective and responsible.