Did you know:
- E-waste represents 2% of America’s trash in landfills, but it equals 70% of overall toxic waste.
- Every year 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed worldwide.
- Electronic items – like cell phones – contain high amounts of precious metals like gold or silver. Every year, Americans dump phones containing over $60 million in gold and silver.
- Recycling 1 million laptops saves the amount of energy it takes to power 3,657 U.S. homes for a year.
- Only 12.5% of e-waste is currently recycled.Source
Who does this affect?
The users of such electronic products – the developed countries – end up dumping the toxic waste in the less developed countries, poisoning their people and their environment.
The boomerang effect
While the developing countries are the initial victims of our irresponsible habits, we all end up paying a price. The “boomerang effect” explains how our dumping of e-waste in these less developed countries comes back to hurt us. Take for example the process of throwing your broken iPad in the trash. It no longer works and is thus worthless to you and any other potential users. However, it has to end up somewhere, it does not simply disappear. Potential scenarios:
- Your iPad makes it to the local landfill. It ends up in a pool of increasingly acidic garbage. Over time it corrodes, cracks and when the landfill lining eventually breaches, the toxic metals find their way into the ground and the water that we drink.
- Your iPad is incinerated and when it reaches the local landfill, toxins such as brominated flame retardants become cancer causing dioxins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that once airborne will end up in the ecosystem and eventually on your plate of food or glass of water.
- Your iPad gets shipped away and dumped in a far-away rural location in China or Africa. Now it becomes their problem? No. Say that it ended up in the Guangdong Province in China (an e-waste farming location). Because a large portion of our food supply is cultivated in Guangdong, it will end back up in your food for the same reasons outlined above. To make matters worse, once the the toxins are transferred in the form of air pollution, the polluted air will ultimately make it back across the world, making up the air surrounding you.
We all pay – today, tomorrow, and generations in the future. Take care of ourselves, our children, and the environment by disposing our e-waste the right way.