Today, much of our outdated electronics are being recycled which seems to be a good thing, but what most people do not know, is that most of this “recycle” is being disposed of irresponsibly. This hazardous electronic waste is called e-waste. Our old electronics are being sent to developing countries to extract the valuable materials from them, but it is being done in a way that is damaging the environment and people who work, play, and live there. Something has to be done about the e-waste problem! So we, as responsible inhabitants of this earth, have to ask ourselves “What is happening with my outdated electronics?”
Electronic devices such as phones, computers, video game consoles, and TVs all contain heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, lead, and many other potentially harmful substances. If these potentially hazardous contents of e-waste are improperly managed then there can be very serious health and environmental risks (Tsydenova). Therefore, it is logical that just throwing out your old, outdated electronics and sending them to the landfill where they could leak their toxic substances into the ground and surrounding area would be environmentally irresponsible.
Around 80 percent of all Americans just throw out their outdated technology. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that Americans throw away 2 billion tons of e-waste a year and over 350,000 cell phones and 130,000 computers every single day. E-waste is now the fastest growing part of U.S. garbage. The responsible thing to do would be to recycle our unwanted e-waste, but if it is not properly handled then it could actually be even worse for the environment.
In these electronics, there are not only hazardous metals, but valuable metals as well. They can be taken apart and the valuable metals can be extracted, but it is both dangerous and time consuming. This is why many recyclers ship their e-waste to developing countries where it is very cheap to have people extract the valuable metals and burn the rest with little concern for the environmental hazards it has. (Walsh 2009)
Guiyu, China is the largest dumpsite of this e-waste. The people who work at these sites have horrible working conditions. They are burning these hazardous metals into the air they breathe and the ground they walk on. There are very little safety precautions taken when they are dealing with these dangerous substances. Nearby Shantou University, reports that Guiyu has the highest level of cancer-causing dioxins in the world and an elevated number of miscarriages. (Walsh 2009)
These uncontrolled e-waste recycling activities have been going on in many locations in China. There have been studies on the pollution from these sites on the surrounding environment. They analyzed the soils at the sites where e-waste was burned in the open air, and the surrounding fields and gardens. The result was a serious level of pollution to local soils and vegetables. The amount of toxic metals in the...