Friday, January 22, 2010

E-waste Getting Out of Control

A typical "free" e-waste collection event
Photo Credits: BAN

As the worlds population increases so does the amount of waste generated and it all has a drastic effect on the planet. The waste is thrown into a landfill, recycled, reused, or melted down and made into new objects.
Rising consciousness of the impact humans are having on the earth means green issues are becoming higher on peoples list of priorities. In an attempt to try and save it from further damage environmental researchers are constantly exploring new techniques and methods that will hopefully shape the future of waste management.
The amount of electronic products used in each country is astounding, every year alone there are thousands upon thousands of disused computers thrown into landfills - when you realize that a computer is made up from over 1,000 materials and the average lifespan is just 2 years, then it becomes clear they contribute significantly to the e-waste stream. E-waste is also highly toxic as it can cause serious health and pollution problems as it contains harmful contaminants including lead, mercury, cadmium, beryllium and brominated flame retardants.
If left to sit in a landfill these toxic chemicals filter into the soil and atmosphere, which in turn have a negative effect on the local community. In some countries the dumping of electronic waste in landfills is now illegal. E-waste also gets incinerated which releases heavy metals, including lead and mercury, into the environment which ultimately end up in the food chain.

The waste ends up in developing countries
Photo Credits:  Greenpeace
A good way to increase a product's lifespan is to reuse it. Mobile phones and computers are sent to developing countries for their use; however, in practice it doesn’t always work out to be the best option as once they are no longer required, the country has no hazardous waste facilities. It then ends up in scrap yards where workers, often children, are employed to sort it by hand where they are exposed to the toxic chemicals and poisons, along with the local community and surrounding environment. In developed countries, electronics recycling occurs in purpose-built recycling plants under strictly controlled conditions, in developing countries they have no controls in place.
Computer recycling produces a large amount of reusable parts. The CRT glass is sent to a lead smelter to recover the lead or to a CRT glass manufacturer where the glass is used to turn out new CRT glass. The electronic components in the CPU, such as the main board, memory, hard drives, battery, power supply, and sound cards, are removed and sold on to different manufacturers or recyclers around the country. Plastics are separated and generally shredded for recycling, whilst metal components are also separated before being sent to scrap metal recyclers.
The figures associated with e-waste are massive and it’s time leading electronic companies take more control of the situation and deal with the waste from their products. It is the fastest growing sector of the solid waste stream due to frequent upgrades of computers, TV’s, stereo systems and, particularly, mobile phones - in western countries people generally buy a new phone every 2 years.
Manufacturers of electronic goods need to take responsibility for the products they make and avert an e-waste disaster. Their aim should be to design electronics that contain harmful materials and have an extended lifespan. They should also be in a position to take their products back once they have passed their sell by date and re-use and recycle them safely, and as appropriate. Some manufacturers now offer a ‘take back’ scheme whereby you can return your unwanted electronics to the company for recycling.
Responsible disposal of electronic waste is not only the responsibility of leading electronics companies, it is everyone’s concern. Reuse is a resourceful way to recycle your appliances; you could give any unwanted items to friends, family, charity, or other community group that would make use of it. If the appliance doesn’t work then find your nearest e-waste recycling point.
There are waste management services online that can assist with all facets of waste management and resource recovery, organizations with years of experience in putting into action effective, innovative and sustainable waste management and industrial services solutions.

About the Author:
Michiel Van Kets writes articles for Veolia Environmental Services, Australia’s environmental services leader in all facets of resource recovery and waste management services. The company has over 30 years industry experience in implementing effective, innovative and sustainable waste management and industrial services solutions. Visit the website for information on e waste recycling and facilities management Sydney services.

1 comment:

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