Have you ever wondered what happens to discarded Nokia 5110s and old PCs? How about used fluorescent tubes or your old battery-operated toys?
We may never know where these electronics junks go, but what can we be sure is that broken electrical equipment pose huge problems for the environment. Aside from being non- biodegradable, these electronic waste (e-waste) are causing health, problems, mostly because of the toxins involved when these devices are improperly processed.
A typical PC can contain up to 6 percent lead, 0.0022 percent mercury, and about 25 percent silica by weight. If these cannot be recovered, these toxins end up contaminating the air, water, and soil, and will eventually kill millions of people.
Where They Go
At present, e-waste either go to incineration, landfills, or are recycled. Incineration is probably the most harmful method of destroying e-waste. Especially for products that have not been pretreated of have not undergone purification methods, the amount of metals that could have been recovered is significantly reduced. The results of burning also release dioxins, one of the most toxic organic compounds known to man.
The most commonly used waste disposal method is land filling. However, leaking landfills are known to contaminate water and ground resources. Mercury, cadmium, and lead are the most common contaminants found in leakages. Another problem with this process involve toxic fumes that may be released as a result of landfills catching fire.
Recycling is probably the best way of disposing e-waste so far. There are many environmental and social benefits in recycling. Aside from minimizing landfill and incineration methods, reusing and donating used electronics may serve charities, nonprofit organizations, and schools.
Environmental Groups also encourage software upgrades instead of buying new equipment. Selling, trading, and salvaging components, such as metals, are highly valued in the recycling market.
According to Greenpeace International, manufacturers should be held responsible for the life cycle of their electronic goods—from production to recycling. There is a looming threat of an e-waste crisis, and unless manufacturers heed the call of green design and technology, serious repercussions are sure to follow. Currently there are safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals that manufacturers can use to contribute to e-waste management.