Many people are always looking for new ways to do more for the environment around us, which is so often neglected in the name of progress. Almost all of us could easily be doing more if we adjusted our priorities, and we know about the importance of things like saving energy, water and so on.
However, it is unusual to speak to anyone who’s particularly well informed about the current state of the world’s electronic waste problem. It’s something that not many people hear about or choose to research because, like many things, it’s simply pushed to the back of their minds. With this in mind, let’s look at the main points about this issue as it stands in 2017.
What is the problem?
Electronic waste (also commonly referred to as e-waste) includes all the appliances and electronic items that we throw away when we no longer want or need them. Kitchen appliances, televisions, laptops, mobile phones and many more goods all come under this category. A lot of this “waste” is actually still functional, but simply redundant because of newer technology being available.
How much is recycled?
It is possible to recycle many of the materials found in these kinds of appliances, and it is also possible to get them sent to people who could actually use them in their current form. However, due to cost constraints and lack of knowledge, only approximately 15% of electronic waste around the world is actually recycled.
What happens to the rest?
Like the rest of our rubbish in countries like the UK and the USA, e-waste is sent to landfill sites when there is no cheap way of doing anything else with it. Many dump sites for this are actually in Africa and China, as developed countries have developed a nasty habit of sending their e-waste to developing ones without taking proper care or responsibility.
What is the result?
The dumping grounds for this e-waste usually end up being highly dangerous, because many chemicals and toxins involved in the production of appliances can slowly leak out into the surrounding environment. Local people in these developing countries are often left to search the scrap for materials they can reuse, but recovering these often requires burning or “acid bathing” which is hazardous in itself.
What is the solution?
A real solution for this problem remains unknown, due to the continued problem we have around the world of incentivising people and companies to take financial responsibility for the waste they create and the damage they do to the planet as a result. There are currently UN rules in place regarding the disposal of e-waste, and many relevant laws which are specific to each country. However, the problem is still a serious one and tougher legislation is being called for around the world to help tackle it faster.