We are living a time when the electronics make our lives a lot easier. They help us communicate and stay in touch with the latest updates. The innovation pace is so big that, even though we just bought a new device some months ago, we don’t think twice before we buy the latest, recently released gadget.
But, what happens with our old electronics once we replace them? Even though almost all the electronic waste can be recycled, we are still way behind to doing it right. Unfortunately, almost 14 million mobile phones are thrown away each year. And as if this wasn’t enough, all this quantity releases 80,000 lbs. of toxic lead, known for its devastating effects on the human body.
7 facts about electronic waste and recycling
Once you start reading this article, you most probably ask yourself how bad can electronic waste be? How is electronic recycling going on and what could be done to improve it? The majority of our electronic waste is discharged in the landfills from Asia or Africa. However, this doesn’t mean that there, all our mobile phones, TVs, and laptops are properly recycled.
All the electronic waste is usually incinerated on their landfills, polluting the air and the environment with the released toxins. Massive quantities of electronic waste are also sent to developing countries where the workers try to extract precious metals from them.
With an average replacement period of 18 months for a mobile phone, the facts about electronic waste and recycling should make everyone think twice before they replace their electronics.
1. 50 million tons can be quantified each year as electronic waste. This amount is expected to grow yearly by 4%. The United States is the highest electronic waste producer, with an annual quantity of 3 million tons. China comes next with 70 million cell phones and 20 million household electronic devices thrown away every year.
2. Up to 85% of the electronic waste is sent to landfills or incinerators in other countries. Guiyu, a town in China, is known as the “capital of electronic waste”. The workers from Guiyu have an average value of lead concentration of 149. Considering that any value above 100 puts the life in danger, it is obvious to understand what can happen with the workers from these landfills.
3. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mentions that if we would recycle our electronic waste, the benefits could be impressive, starting with a better home space management to preventing pollution and saving the world’s natural resources. For instance, if we would recycle all the mobile phones we throw away in the landfills, we would save enough energy for 24,000 American homes.
4. Electronic waste contains about 60 valuable elements like gold, copper, silver, or palladium. According to EPA, if we would recycle 1 million cell phones, we would obtain 50 pounds of gold, approximately 500 pounds of silver, 20 pounds of palladium, and 20,000 pounds of copper. With these values in mind, it is easy to estimate that the Americans are throwing around $60 million worth of gold and silver to the garbage.
5. Each TV contains approximately 4 to 8 pounds of lead. When a TV is not properly recycled, all this lead ends up into the soil and water. The lead is extremely harmful to the nervous system and kidneys.
6. Apart from lead, electronic waste contains a lot of dangerous and toxic substances. For example, it contains mercury, arsenic, chromium, selenium, or cadmium.
7. The number of mobile phones has reached such an incredible level of being more than the world’s population. What is more, the statistics show that the mobile devices have a growth rate five times greater than that of the population.
We can all change this situation and start recycling our electronic waste. Education is the key for an efficient recycling program. Before we throw an electronic device to the garbage, we should think before if someone else could use it. What is more, we can also ask the electronic shops about their recycling programs and get their help.
How is your footprint?
These days it is pretty hard to deny that unless something changes dramatically with the way people treat our environment the effects are going to be drastic. While some vocal people still deny that global warming is really happening they are fast becoming a minority – it seems as though global warming is real, it is happening and it is scary. So what can you as one single person do to make a difference? Here are five quick suggestions that I try to be aware of in my daily life and they really are not hard to implement at all.
Buy food from local producers
We live in a globalized world, and while this is by-and-large an amazing thing that has opened us up to knowledge, new cultures and experiences and cheaper products (I am not an anti-globalization hippie!!) the fact is that shipping products all over the world is emitting massive amounts of carbon. Nowdays it is standard to visit the grocery store and find fruit and vegetables from all over the world. However, the fact is it is not much more expensive to find stores that stock locally grown produce that only has to be trucked a few miles from where it was grown rather than flown 1000s of miles.
Ride your bike or walk more
This one doesnt only help the environment but is good for your health too! Next time you are driving to a store just around the corner stop and think if it would be just as easy to walk. Going a bit farther? Jump on a bike. You can pick up perfectly good bikes second hand for under $100 and just riding a few times a week instead of driving will also save you a lot of money on gas. It’s a no brainer.
Use green energy
Many power companies now give you the option of getting some or all of your energy from clean sources. Even better read up on how to to make solar panels and start producing your own solar power free from the sun.
Check energy rating on new appliances
You will be amazed at how much more power one appliance can use compared to an identical-looking one right next to it. If you are buying something big like a TV, fridge or dishwasher do your research and choose a product that uses less energy – this can make a big reduction in your carbon footprint and to your power bill.
Consume less of everything
I have to admit that I love shopping online, but it can be a good idea to stop and think before clicking that checkout button… do I really need this new thing? We could all consume a little less and enjoy the simple things in life a lot more.