E-Waste: A Dangerous Waste Material

When you first saw e-waste, I’m sure you thought about “how can that be dangerous?” I’m certainly sure that you thought of the recycle bin in your computer. Wrong! We are talking about old and unused technology. Examples are microwaves, oven, mobile phones, computers and anything in between. Computers are considered as the most frequently updated electronic device, and as a result, 168,000 tons of computers are recycled in the USA alone in 2010. Globally, about 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed of every year.

Australians are among the leading users of technology in the world and e-waste is one of the fastest growing types of waste. With that in mind, here are some interesting facts about Australian e-wastes (http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Products/4602.0.55.005~2013~Main+Features~Electronic+and+Electrical+Waste?OpenDocument):

  • 17 million televisions and 37 million computers have been sent to landfill up to 2008
  • 99% of Australian households have at least one television set. while 55% have a second set
  • Of the 15.7 million computers that reached their ‘end of life’ in Australia in 2007-08, only 1.5 million were recycled – that’s less the 10%
  • The cumulative volume of televisions and computers reaching the end of their useful life is expected to reach 181,000 tonnes or 44 million units by 2027-28
  • Australians buy more than 4 million computers and 3 million televisions annually
  • Older televisions that contain Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT) have more than 2 kilograms of lead and account for the largest source of lead in the waste stream. Flat screen televisions contain less lead but more mercury
  • If 75% of the 1.5 million televisions discarded annually were recycled there would be savings of 23,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalents, 520 megalitres of water, 400,000 gigajoules of energy and 160,000 cubic metres of landfill space

In the USA, on the other hand, only 29.2% of e-waste are being recycled, that means almost 70% of e-wastes are trashed each year from the USA alone (http://www.electronicstakeback.com/wp-content/uploads/Facts_and_Figures_on_EWaste_and_Recycling.pdf), and that is a big problem.

E-Wastes are Toxic

What’s worse about it is that many of the materials used in electronic devices are toxic. Most of them contain mercury, arsenic, cadmium, selenium, hexavalent chromium and flame retardants, all of which are hazardous to the environment. They can be harmful to the human and animal health as well, especially if not disposed of properly. If not controlled, they will add up over time, effectively destroying life as we know it on Earth.

E-Waste Disposal

E-waste is different from regular waste and rubbish. They are needed to be disposed of properly to protect our planet. However, many skip bin companies won’t allow you to put e-wastes into the bin, but most of them will help you bring them to the proper facilities.

Other options include recycling or donating them yourself. If you have an unused electronic device that’s still working, you can donate them to the people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to it. You can also find many facilities and institutions where you can bring your e-waste for disposal, reuse or recycling.

You can also return them to their manufacturers. Apple, Canon, Dell, and HP are just some of the companies accepting product take-backs.

In addition to the above, many Australian initiatives are created to help control e-wastes. You can visit the following websites to know more about them:

E-wastes are dangerous if not controlled. Therefore, we must make sure that all electronic devices are properly disposed of or recycled to help keep our environment healthy.

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