Digital Marketing Manager
Electronic waste, also known as “e-waste,” is an all-encompassing phrase that describes electronic products that are either broken, unwanted, outdated, or at the end of their “useful life.”
Common examples of e-waste include:
- Computer monitors
- DVD players
Given the rapid pace of technological advancement in our society, millions of pounds worth of e-waste are created every year due to people buying new, updated versions of electronic products. This process has led to an eye-opening increase in e-waste production over the last several years.
Production of E-waste Is Becoming a Growing Issue
According to a recent United Nations Institute article, E-waste is the fastest-growing type of waste being produced in the world. The amount of e-waste produced worldwide has been increasing significantly in recent years. According to a Statista study, approximately 54 million metric tons of e-waste were generated worldwide in 2019 alone, compared to about 44 million metric tons generated just five years earlier. E-waste production is expected to continue to increase moving into the future, with some experts predicting that about 74 million metric tons of e-waste will be produced in the year 2030 alone.
Many factors are contributing to this problem, with the COVID-19 pandemic being one of them. Given that many schools and jobs have moved to online platforms over the past year or so, the importance of having new, updated technology is more important than ever. People have had to upgrade their technology recently to adapt to our changing world. As large numbers of people purchase new electronics, a cause-and-effect relationship is established. The influx of new electronics being purchased increases the number of existing electronics that suddenly become outdated and have reached the end of their useful life, increasing the amount of e-waste we produce. COVID-19 aside, many people in society place importance on always buying the newest versions of every electronic product as soon as they come out, contributing to this problem. All in all, E-waste production is continuing to rise, which makes recycling it properly all the more important. Failure to do so can lead to disastrous consequences for humans, animals, and the environment as a whole.
The Negative Impact of Improper E-waste Recycling
Many forms of e-waste have internal components that contain a variety of toxic chemicals. These include:
- Polyvinyl Chloride
When e-waste is not disposed of properly, the chemicals located within the electronics themselves can enter our air, water, and soil. Even though e-waste represents only 2-3% of the overall waste in landfills, it is responsible for about 70% of the toxic waste produced in these areas. Pollution caused by improper disposal of e-waste is becoming a growing problem, and the effects are devastating. When chemicals from e-waste soak into the soil, it can cause plants to grow improperly and become diseased. This leads to a lack of biodiversity in habitats and even food shortages. Improper e-waste disposal also contaminates water supplies that both humans and animals rely on. Furthermore, chemicals from e-waste can be released into the air because old electronics are commonly burned at landfills using incinerators. Breathing contaminated air can cause damage to the heart, kidney, brain, and other organs in humans and animals.
China, India, and some African nations like Ghana are especially prone to these problems as e-waste is dumped there by the United States and other more developed countries. Toxic e-waste can commonly be found scattered near homes and bodies of water in these countries since children and adults make a living out of taking these electronics apart for their precious metals and other components. Sadly, these people do not have any resources to protect themselves against the constant exposure they receive to these chemicals, which causes them to experience a plethora of health issues, as mentioned above.
Improper e-waste disposal has also had a disastrous impact on natural ecosystems, especially marine environments. Through the process of run-off, the chemicals from e-waste can enter various bodies of water quite easily. As a result, the organisms living in lakes, streams, ponds, and other groundwater locations are at increased risk of exposure to these toxins. This not only harms the organisms that live in aquatic habitats, but it can also create health problems for humans and other animals that rely on these bodies of water for drinking purposes.
Benefits of Recycling E-waste Properly
Thankfully, it is possible and even easy to recycle e-waste properly. Putting in the effort to do so has numerous benefits, both from an environmental and financial perspective.
Recycling old electronics with certified recyclers ensures that they will not end up in a landfill. This prevents the possibility of the toxic chemicals described above from entering the environment in the first place while limiting the need for landfills as a whole. Recycling e-waste properly allows the precious metals and other components in old electronics to be extracted and re-used. Recycling e-waste the right way saves time, energy, and money.
There is a financial incentive to recycle e-waste properly. Many electronic products contain precious metals such as gold, platinum, zinc, copper, silver, and aluminum. These commodities have a monetary value on the secondary market. A recent article by earth911.com revealed that the value of the raw materials in discarded e-waste exceeded $7 BILLION in 2019 alone. Recycling the precious metals and other components in e-waste is a significant financial opportunity that many are unaware of. Thankfully, we here at Genesis Dome offer value recovery and revenue-sharing programs. People who recycle quantities of e-waste with us receive financial compensation simply for recycling these electronics the right way.
Environmental and financial considerations aside, recycling e-waste properly is important simply because it is the right thing to do. It is an easy yet effective action that anyone who owns old electronics can make the world a cleaner and better place.
A Brighter Tomorrow
Even though less than 20% of e-waste that was discarded in 2019 ended up being recycled properly, according to Earth911.com, there are some encouraging signs that our worldwide e-waste situation is slowly improving. Many states, including Illinois, have passed laws in recent years that ban e-waste from entering landfills. Additionally, electronics manufacturers like Apple, Dell, and Samsung also prohibit the export of their e-waste to developing nations. The growing trend of recycling in general and its importance in our society is more evidence to suggest that we as humans will start to take this problem more seriously and start to recycle e-waste at higher rates moving forward. This truly is an issue that impacts everyone, requiring a team effort to make a difference for the better.
Ways You Can Make a Difference
Here are some ways you can make a difference by getting rid of old electronics without having them end up in a landfill:
Option #1: Recycling
Many recyclers all over the country specialize in recycling e-waste the right way. Genesis Dome falls into this category. It is important to do research when working with an e-waste recycler to make sure you are dropping off your electronics with a recycler who has an R2 (Responsible Recycling) certification and is dedicated to recycling e-waste in a secure and environmentally safe manner. Many recyclers will take your old e-waste free of charge to you, while some even pay you for working with them, as mentioned above. For example, Genesis Dome will give you money simply for recycling e-waste like TVs, microwaves, vacuums, DVDs, and stereos with us.
Option #2: E-Waste Collection Events
Many towns and communities also offer e-waste collection days that are absolutely free of charge. These collection days are community-organized events in which people can drop off their e-waste at a predetermined location. This e-waste is then collected by the community and sent to a recycler so they can dispose of it in a safe, confidential, and environmentally friendly manner. The frequency of these e-waste collection events varies from place to place, but they usually happen at least once a month. A simple Google search can lead you to an e-waste collection center in your local area. Genesis Dome has sponsored e-waste collection events in the past and will continue to do so moving forward. Stay tuned for more details about our next event!
Option #3: Donating
If your old electronics still work, they can be donated. Computers with Causes, Human-I-T, the World Computer Exchange, and Goodwill are just a few organizations that accept old electronics as donations. When you donate old electronics, you are preventing your old electronics from entering the landfill and improving people’s lives everywhere. These donated electronics are often repaired or refurbished and then given to low-income families, non-profit organizations, people with disabilities, and military veterans. Some people do not have the means to purchase new electronics, so these donations are critical to providing them with access to these things. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has more information as to where you can donate your electronics.
While the production of e-waste worldwide is still increasing by the year and is expected to continue increasing for the foreseeable future, there are reasons to be encouraged. Slowly but surely, people are beginning to understand the devastating consequences of not recycling e-waste properly while also gaining knowledge about the course of action they must take to make changes for the better. Eliminating the negative environmental impacts of improper e-waste recycling is not something that will be solved overnight. Still, anyone who owns old electronics can help be part of the solution. People recycle more than ever before; let’s hope that trend continues.