With rapid changes in technology, for businesses it’s logical to upgrade whatever electronic devices you have to enjoy the new features and stay competitive. However, this process results in boxes, cabinets, and drawers filled with old cables, chargers, printers, mobile phones, computer parts, and everything else that accompanied the electronic devices you have purchased over the years. When you decide to declutter your home, some of these electronic devices may end up with other garbage that’s headed to the landfill, or perhaps donated or sold if functional or repairable.
Unfortunately, sending your old electronics to the landfill may cause them to destroy the surrounding environment and make it toxic for all living things, including yourself. Most mobile phones, computers, and electronic devices contain some amount of toxic materials such as mercury, lead, and cadmium, as well as some precious metals like gold, silver, and copper. Reports indicate that about 70 percent of toxic materials found in landfills are generated from electronic waste. This problem can be addressed by recycling old consumer electronics.
Toxic Materials in E-Waste
Research shows that the toxic materials in electronic waste can poison the soil if tossed in a landfill, especially if they contain a lot of mercury and lead. These components are harmful because they will gradually leach into the earth. The toxic materials in e-waste can also lead to air pollution, which is another reason never to dispose off your electronic devices with regular trash.
Studies show a connection between electronic waste in landfills and certain human health issues, such as severe respiratory problems. According to the Environmental Research Letters journal, the air surrounding e-waste dismantling areas can adversely affect human lung cells. The study based in China also found that e-waste contains many pollutants that can build up in the human body with continued inhalation of contaminated air.
Another study conducted by the United Nations Environmental Programme found that half of 300 children living in a Nairobi slum, next to a large waste disposal site, had respiratory problems, while 30 percent had blood abnormalities. Both cases are linked to heavy metal poisoning from electronic waste.
Reduce Your Environmental Footprint with Electronic Recycling
As people become increasingly aware of the environment and climate change, more and more recycling programs are appearing. This means that you can find an electronics recycling program near you. Though the process of recycling e-waste can be time consuming, your role in the process is quite simple: simply drop your old electronics off at an e-waste recycling centre near you.
The Electronics Products Recycling Association (EPRA) employs regulated recycling initiatives across Canada to ensure that electronic waste is handled in an environmentally conscious and safe way. The EPRA has over 2,000 collection sites across the country, including return-to-retail locations, drop-off centres, and special collection events, all of which work together to help prevent the illegal exportation of end-of-life electronics, handling by irresponsible recyclers, and disposal in landfills.
It may feel like your input in conserving the environment is too small to make a difference, especially compared to large corporations looking to dispose of hundreds of old electronic equipment. But you need to consider how many individuals are willing to help save the environment, and how you’re part of the process. The EPRA program helps to keep 100,000 metric tonnes of e-waste out of landfills annually, which in turn helps to recover a variety of raw materials from the disposed electronics, including precious metals, plastics, and glass that can be used for the manufacture of other materials.
Besides the environmental problem, a big challenge today is the rising volume of electronic waste getting discarded. With rapid technology improvements and constant upgrades for each device, the older versions become outdated, resulting in more devices reaching their end-of-life. Estimates indicate that every year there is about 20 to 50 million tonnes of e-waste generated globally.
There is a strong and urgent need to increase electronics recycling efforts as people continue to buy mobile devices, tablets, home automation devices, and other gadgets. Fortunately, it’s easy to recycle electronics, and most people can access an EPRA program near them to recycle their electronics. Keep in mind that recycling helps to not only save the environment by conserving energy and recycling natural resources (like metals), but also protects your health by preventing air and water pollution.