Whether it be at home, the office, or out and about, electronics are everywhere. They’re vital for communication, work, and keeping life going. There’s little doubt that a modern world without electronics wouldn’t be modern at all. However, that’s come at a cost. Nearly all of the old technology we’ve discarded as e-waste is having a significant environmental impact, and we need to address it.
As technology expanded into every aspect of life, so too did the volume of the e-waste generated. In 2021, it was estimated that e-waste alone weighed 57 million tons worldwide. The environmental impact of this tremendous volume of e-waste is still being evaluated, but the early signs are worrying.
E-Waste’s Environmental Impact on Water and Air
While technology isn’t dangerous to our health when in operation, that changes quickly when it gets tossed into a landfill. The manufacturing of electronics involves a number of toxic chemicals. From heavy metals, to mercury, to arsenic, these elements decompose in the open air, and release into our water and air.
Once they enter the ecosystem, it can take decades or longer to clean them up. In the meantime, they impact the health of all the plants, animals, and humans, that come into contact with them. Fish, plants, and animals in the local ecosystem can suffer, or if the pollution is significant, can die from the toxic effects.
Humans suffer significant effects as well. The pollution from e-waste can cause cancer, asthma, and a range of serious health effects. While the danger is higher for those that live closest to a landfill or disposal site, the water and air can carry the pollution for miles.
The Environmental Impact on Developing Countries From E-Waste
While the impact is real in the United States and Europe, the problem is more significant for developing countries. Often in the past, and still today, broken or outdated electronics get shipped to developing countries in Asia and Africa. For countries like the United States and Europe, it’s a convenient way to get rid of a problem without addressing it.
However, the reality is that it just forces the problem on to countries less capable of dealing with it. Landfills in these countries are often poorly regulated. In addition, thousands of people try to make a living searching these landfills for scraps and metal they can sell. As a result, people suffer even more directly from the environmental impact of e-waste.
As mentioned above, the effects on human health are severe, and more so for people who come in direct and consistent contact with e-waste. The health effects can extend beyond adults as well. Often, children or pregnant mothers work in these landfills. For children, it can stunt development and lead to lifelong illnesses. For infants in the womb, it can lead to adverse birth outcomes, and they can develop lifelong chronic conditions before they’re even born.
How Recycling Can Help
This may all seem rather dire. However, there are reasons to be hopeful. Right now, less than 20% of e-waste gets recycled properly. Greater awareness and better recycling practices can raise that number significantly. For every ton of e-waste properly recycled, that means a ton of e-waste won’t have a negative environmental impact.
Recycling techniques for e-waste are also improving. Breakthroughs in the works will make the process more effective and cost-efficient.
Recycling also means that the ore used in the production of technology can stay in the ground. The manufacturing process, including the excavation of material required, is incredibly damaging to the environment. Creating a circular economy, where recycled technology goes on to create new equipment, lessens the environmental impact on both the planet and people.
Reduce E-Waste with Electronics Recycling Finder
If you’re looking to reduce your impact on the environment, or simply want to get rid of old electronics taking up space, Electronics Recycling Finder can help. We partner with affordable and sustainable recyclers across the country who can ensure your technology will go on to have a productive new life. Give us a call at (844) 648-4908, or fill out the form on the page, and we’ll find someone who can properly recycle your old technology within minutes.