For most of the Western world, getting rid of your old electronic waste (e-Waste) is as simple as kicking it to the curb in time for Monday morning trash pickup. But have you ever considered the effects of throwing your e-Waste away? Every time you toss out an old TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone, the implications could be more far-reaching than you realize.
What Happens to American e-Waste?
A large majority of the time, e-Waste from the US ends up being exported to third world countries. The old devices and batteries that you send to the dump don’t usually come to rest in our landfills. It is estimated that anywhere from 14% to 80% of our waste devices are sent to developing countries such as India, Pakistan, Nigeria, and East Asia, among other locations.
Once there, your old keyboards, computers, and phones will be picked through for usable materials, and what can’t be salvaged is usually burned. Unfortunately, the recycling processes in these countries often do not allow them to salvage precious metals, such as lithium and platinum, so instead these precious metals are burned along with any other unusable parts, releasing toxic chemicals into the environment.
Environmental and Economic Effects of e-Waste
In some cases, the practice of shipping used electronics to developing countries can be beneficial. When, for instance, people who can’t afford new electronic devices can buy used devices from more developed countries instead. However, the improper recycling of devices that are no longer working can have some serious environmental effects.
Burning or otherwise improperly recycling e-Waste can result in the release of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and other toxins into the air, and asbestos and arsenic are sometimes used to get the e-waste burning, releasing more carcinogens and toxic chemicals. These chemicals can pollute not only the air in the locality where they were released, but the soil and water in the vicinity as well.
Health Effects of e-Waste
Although there have been few studies to date on the health effects of exposure to e-Waste toxins, the few studies that do exist show almost undeniably that people—especially children and pregnant women—who are exposed to e-Waste toxins are at a much higher risk of many cancers, immune system deficiencies, and reproductive system problems than people who are not exposed. Even scarier, children who live in communities where e-waste is exported are at risk of neurodevelopmental problems. In other words, important processes within their brains are hindered due to toxin exposure, impeding normal development and potentially causing a myriad of neurological disorders.
Recycle Safely with 2nd Cell
Disposing of your e-Waste safely is essential to the health of the planet in general, and especially for citizens of developing countries. Instead of taking a trip to the landfill when you finally clear those old televisions, computers, game systems, printers, and keyboards out of your basement, consider responsibly recycling them. When it comes to your mobile device, stop by 2nd Cell to get your e-Waste recycled safely and responsibly. You will feel good knowing that you have saved precious metals, kept more waste out of landfills, and prevented more toxic chemicals from entering the global environment.