How Electronics Recycling Impacts Our Environment
It’s a well-known fact that recycling is important for our environment. There are a lot of people around the world who participate in the recycling of materials like plastics, paper, glass and aluminum. But, what about electronic waste (aka e-waste)? How ironic is it that the same people who recycle every aluminum can, every sheet of paper, every glass bottle and every plastic container they own will then go and throw their electronic waste in the nearest dumpster or drop it off at the closest landfill? Electronics recycling is just as important, (if not more) for our environment and our health as the recycling of other materials.
Recycling in general benefits our environment, and recycling electronics is starting to become a much bigger global issue. This is mainly due to the worldwide increase in electronics production and the alarming rate at which the global amount of electronic waste is currently growing. In a number of developed countries, new laws and improved regulations regarding the issues surrounding electronics recycling are being implemented in an effort to address the rising levels of e-waste across the globe.
Electronics recycling (also referred to as “e-cycling”) is one of the best ways for us to tackle the growing problem of e-waste accumulation. Only about 18% of the electronic waste in the United States is actually recycled each year. This means that over 80% of our electronics (about 230+ million products) are not being recycled.
Throwing E-Waste in Landfills Can Negatively Impact the Environment
Whenever electronics are irresponsibly tossed in the trash and wind up in a landfill, the environmental impact is a negative one. Electronic items contain materials and toxins that can be potentially hazardous when they begin to leach into the nearby water supply as well as the soil, causing both to become contaminated. These toxins can also be released into the air, which can increase the amount of air pollution.
It is important to try and keep as much electronic waste out of our landfills as possible. We can achieve this by responsibly recycling our old, outdated and/or broken electronics. Luckily there are more ways than one to recycle your old electronics. When you give away, sell or donate your old electronics that are still in working order, at least you know that they are not in a landfill or being exported to a developing country.
How E-Cycling in Developing Countries Can Negatively Impact the Environment
E-cycling in the United States and other developed countries is different than the e-cycling that takes place in countries like China, India and poor countries in West Africa. The e-cycling in these countries is not formally monitored or regulated. The e-cycling workers are exposed to hazardous working conditions. There’s either very little or no measures taken to protect the area where these unregulated e-cycling plants are located.
The people who work at these low-grade e-waste recycling facilities are not properly protected from the hazardous materials they are exposed to on a daily basis. Their work environment is toxic and puts their health and well-being at risk. The areas surrounding these locations have higher levels of air pollution and the soil as well as the water supply in these areas has higher contamination levels.
Whenever we recycle our electronics with a U.S. company that exports its e-waste to one or more of these developing countries, we are actually contributing to the global e-waste problem instead of improving it. In a way, we are just passing the problem from one side of the world to another.
Responsible E-Cycling Benefits Everyone Everywhere
When we recycle our electronics responsibly, we are not only benefiting our local environment, we are actually making a positive impact on the entire world.