Do you know where your e-waste is going?

What is E-waste? 

E-waste is electronic waste that makes up 5% of municipal solid waste worldwide. E-waste includes phones, computers, televisions, audio equipment, printers, DVD players, and any electronic device.Every year 25 million tons of e-waste is produced, and a large percent of it is dumped abroad.

A Consumerist Society 

In American society we have this notion that we need the newest gadget and we need it now! In each new generation there is an increasing need for instant gratification. Our society no longer purchases only their true needs, but over consumes without  considering the environmental impact. American society is materialistic, and consumers only care about their own selfish needs.

Hazards of E-waste 

E-waste being burned to salvage parts in Ghana

There are harmful elements found in electronics like PVC, mercury, solvents, flame retardants, and lead. Lead can be very disastrous to many organs and tissues (heart, bones, intestines, kidneys), as well as cardiovascular, reproductive, and nervous systems. It can cause symptoms from headaches to seizures, coma, or death. Flame retardants can cause abnormal thyroid metabolism, and poor brain development. When burned, plastic and other materials in electronic products release toxic chemicals. Plastics release dioxins such as; PVC or hydrofluoric acid, which can damage the lungs of those exposed to it. Not only are people who are actively participating in this getting exposed, but also the surrounding communities ground water and air is contaminated. The contaminated water leads to contamination of crops, animals and anyone who drinks it.

Check out the video on the right side that is titled “Toxic U.S. E-waste: Third World Problem.”

Shipped off  

The map above shows the known and suspected routes of e-waste dumping (sorry the picture is so small but it was the only one I could find that contained suspected routes). E-waste is shipped overseas to Asia, India, Africa and other developing countries. Because these people are so impoverished they work at ‘recycling facilities.’ At these facilities they do not wear any protection so their health and environment declines rapidly. These people earn about 1 meal a day while damaging their health. Many of these people are not aware of the risks involved with their work.

What can you do to ensure your e-waste does not end up overseas? 

E-waste recycling programs that have been certified by                        e-stewards have to comply with certain standards. These include waste not being disposed of in solid waste landfills or incinerators, prohibits the exports and imports of electronics and specifically prohibits export of hazardous waste to developing countries. In order for this dangerous oversea shipping to stop, it is necessary for the public to be aware of this issue, and make sure that the e-waste recycling program will not ship overseas.

How are you disposing of your e-waste? Is your e-waste recycler certified?

“Shall we surrender to our surroundings or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, to our land and to our water?”

-Richard Nixon


About lewis162

Check out my Environmental blog My Blog from when I was abroad (Switzerland)

Posted on October 7, 2011, in environment, Trash, Woldwide and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thanks for the information! I had seen a lot of talk about how our electronic waste ended up damaging communities in the developing world, but not much in the way of statistics or anything in the way of feedback from regulatory bodies.

    A paradigm shift may be beginning though! Did you see the video on “mining” waste rather than simply recycling it. The idea seems to be that if you do it on a large enough scale, you can get a lot of traction on the problem and reduce a lot of the negative impacts on the environment. I stumbled across the website and the video explains how the “mining” works in one plant at least. If it is as good as the video claims, we could solve a lot of problems both on the input end (raw resources) and on the waste end (landfill).

    Anyway, I would be interesting in your analysis of the process as a student in the area.

    • Thank you so much for the video, I had not heard of that concept before. I think that the process of ‘mining’ waste, if it works as well as the video shows, is an innovative way to reuse plastic and reduce the waste going over seas. I am from the Bay Area and am surprised to see that Mike Biddle started it in his garage in Pittsburg CA. I have not heard of anything before this, although it’s not a big surprise seeing as the media focuses on other things.

      The problem with this is that in the United States we do not have an equivalent electronic waste regulation as Europe has, it would increase the difficulty of achieving it. In order for it to work efficiently I believe the U.S. would need to impose regulation on electronic waste. Consumers also can take a more active role and demand electronic waste regulation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: