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The impact of electronic waste: huge ecological problem

Electronic waste has reached such dimensions that it is a very serious problem for the environment. Immersed in the Age of Big Data, the problem grows unstoppably. It will be enough to give a few figures to understand the dramatic situation: in recent years, around the world around 50 million metric tons of electronic waste are produced annually, which is 7 kilograms per person. In addition, according to the UN, by 2017 the figure will increase by 33 percent.

That means that in 2017 the annual volume of electronic waste will be about 65.4 million tons, which is equivalent to a weight similar to that of 200 buildings such as the Empire State Building in New York or 11 buildings such as the Great Pyramid of Giza. Impressive, right? At AgroCorrn we want to raise awareness about this problem and, therefore, in this article we all tell about the impact of electronic waste: a huge ecological problem .

You may also be interested in: Types of garbage
  1. What is electronic waste
  2. Health and environmental threat
  3. How to deal with electronic waste? – know the solutions

What is electronic waste

For a few years, the human being is increasingly using electrical and electronic equipment for their daily tasks. This almost massive consumption of these elements generates a large amount of toxic waste that seriously damages the environment. The so-called electronic waste or scrap is one of the most worrying problems facing today’s ecology.

Annually, between 40 and 50 million electronic waste is produced, a number that alarms by its magnitude. In Europe alone, we generate about 14 million, 5% of total urban waste. Nowadays, it is rare for the citizen who does not have, at least, a telephone, a computer, printers, scanners … not to mention the devices used in companies. In addition, the life cycle of these is very short: about 3 years for a phone. Some 180 million computers are sold in the world a year. This has been fueled by a social phenomenon that encourages the replacement of terminals often to have the latest technology, even if they work properly. Such practice is as alarming as it is unnecessary and increases the problem. The waste – called WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) – is made with small components that are harmful to the Earth and also to health. We are talking about heavy metals, cadmium, lead, mercury … In addition, they use different types of non-degradable plastics. This increases pollution in groundwater, rivers, lakes, seas and green areas.

Some of the most polluting are electronic cards, fluorescent lamps, desktop and laptop computers, monitors, printers, video cameras, televisions, audio equipment and mobile phones.

The recycling of waste from these consumer products is an expensive and polluting process, as their manufacture can include approximately 50 small components. It is costly to tear apart each device and recover each material for recycling. Therefore, the first step that the citizen should take would be to reduce the unnecessary consumption of such products.

In summary, e-waste is called electronic waste to discarded electronic devices , such as computers, telephones, appliances, mobile devices, batteries, audio equipment, peripherals, etc., whether they are damaged or have become obsolete, for the same thing.

In addition to the concept, to understand this problem its location is important, since not all countries generate the same volume of this garbage, logically. In fact, a global e-waste map has even been produced showing the amount of e-waste by country.

Specifically, in 2012 China and the United States had the dubious honor of being leaders both in the manufacture of electronic equipment and in generating more of this type of waste. Globally, the consequences are dire, among other things because recycling is not carried out properly .

For example, burning for valuable components such as copper and gold releases toxins that pollute the atmosphere. The most everyday examples are already a scare. If a nickel cadmium battery in a telephone pollutes about 50,000 liters of water, a single television set fouls 80,000 liters of water with metallic substances, lead and phosphorous. Or, without going any further, discarding an air conditioner puts a high bill to the environment, since it contains CFC gases that destroy the ozone layer, in addition to other pollutants considered dangerous.

Health and environmental threat

If electronic waste saturates the environment, it is no less harmful to health. Being a potential pollutant source for aquifers , atmosphere and soil due to the toxic substances they contain, once they reach nature, little can be done.

Environmental and health risks are especially alarming in developing countries, the final destination of a large amount of waste that comes from developed countries. In addition to polluting the environment, it can cause DNA damage and cancer, as well as inflammation and oxidative stress, leading to cardiovascular diseases .

How to deal with electronic waste? – know the solutions

Faced with such a contemporary problem, it is important to take particular and collective awareness to alleviate its devastating effects of mistreatment to the planet and to health. Many organizations try to solve the problem from the law, forcing manufacturers to build their devices with less harmful elements, since they are considered as the final responsible. Individuals can, for their part:

  • Drastically reduce your consumption . Today, a large part of communication is done through electronic channels; it is difficult to work without a computer or without a phone. However, it is not necessary to change your mobile phone every year to have a slightly better one if the current one still works. The purchase should be out of necessity, not whim. If you are going to give an electronic device for Christmas, make sure that you choose a reliable and durable one, to avoid having to change it soon after.
  • It is precisely at the time of purchase that a consumer shows whether or not he is committed to the environment. In addition to the decision making, in addition to the design, price and functionalities, the manufacturer’s environmental commitment can be added. Many brands are already betting on less polluting materials .
  • When a device no longer serves us, we will try to reuse it. Offer it to a friend who does not have or to the children, instead of buying a new one.
  • When it comes to reusing it, we can look at the manufacturer’s website. Many already include a collection service for outdated phones . In addition, they often offer benefits such as virtual points or a discount on the next device to acknowledge the commitment.
  • Bring the device to organizations that reuse electronic instruments . They repair and sell them. The money obtained is directed to sustainable projects. Others donate them to less favored social strata. More and more designers are becoming famous for creating new objects from repurposed electronics.
  • If you do not want to travel there are many campaigns on the Internet that offer a door-to-door collection service, they suggest you send it for a low price, or they promise to bear the shipping costs. The options are increasingly wide and comfortable for the consumer.
  • Send this type of device to specialized points for the recycling of electronic components . In Madrid there are fifteen clean points to deposit them. Although reuse is more convenient (the recycling process sends toxins into the atmosphere), you should dispose of those that are no longer useful at a specialized point and never mix it with other waste. In Spain, only 5% of electronics are recycled in convenient places. The most worrying thing is the composition of the batteries, highly damaging due to their manufacturing materials. In the world there are 3,000 million mobile users. If each of them recycled just one, we would save 240,000 tons of raw materials.

Therefore, today we can collect all the tablets, GPS or phones that have not worked for a long time and have been stored in the drawer for months, and send them to the right place (to recycle or reuse). Surveys ensure that in Spain there are approximately 22 million disabled mobile terminals stored inside homes.

Starting by emptying drawers and cabinets of these obsolete devices and following the advice mentioned on these lines, we will have made a part of our contribution to reduce the great problem of electronic waste.

If you want to read more articles similar to The impact of electronic waste: huge ecological problem , we recommend that you enter our Recycling and waste management category .

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Hello, I am a blogger specialized in environmental, health and scientific dissemination issues in general. The best way to define myself as a blogger is by reading my texts, so I encourage you to do so. Above all, if you are interested in staying up to date and reflecting on these issues, both on a practical and informative level.

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