Technology is advancing at a fast pace. The same goes for consumers. The main issue is electronic waste. What we are going to do will be all the electronics that are no longer of us. Of course, the best discourse is to reuse them. But at one point an electronic device exceeds its limitations and becomes scrap. Recycling is the only way we can make a difference. We can use it to reclaim resources that are hard to mine. Rare earths and precious metals.
Thinking outside the box
We can reduce the damage to our ecosystem by thinking creatively. By creating a system where we can reclaim resources, we can help create new products. E-waste will soon become harder to handle. As we have no other ways to properly dispose of it. Many customers think landfills are the best place for this disposal. But they have no clue about what kind of danger that poses. Spent Electronics such as smartphones contain lithium. These are highly hazardous when they encounter water. So why create a consequence when you know you will never recover from the damage?
What is in our electronics?
Electronic waste contains a mix of hazardous chemicals and materials that can be a danger to you and the environment. Whenever electronics are thrown in trash or landfills, they pose dire consequences for communities. According to EPA, these are all the common materials found in every electronics you currently have in use:
- Lead is a dangerous material. It can lead to lead poisoning. This can damage your kidneys.
- Mercury found in lamps can cause brain, lung, and kidney damage if not properly disposed of.
- Cadmium is present in chips, batteries, and plastics. Irregular disposal of this element can cause kidney, bone, and lung diseases.
Not properly disposing of these materials can lead these chemicals to contaminate you and your surroundings. This poses an elevated risk to the environment and cleaning up will take decades. Look at the BP oil spill. Organization is still cleaning. Despite the clear hazards, people still throw electronics thinking they will be recycled. But that is not the case. Your local municipal does not recycle. We do. They either store them or landfill them. The number of fires that you are hearing about in the news today. Disposing of electronics in the trash is the main cause.
Electronic Waste Solutions that matter
To contain this rising e-waste, we need to find solutions to that matter. Some might suggest we move towards chemical recycling. In my book it is mostly snake oil. The shredding process is one of the best ways to do so. Of course, the manual sorting seems a catastrophe waiting to happen. But we can use artificial tech to fill in gaps where we think the waste stream is not doing the deed. Also, manufacturers of these electronics need to rethink how they design their products. That is something we have zero control over. Plastic one of the greatest inventions of the last century is going to kill us down the road. This element’s disposal rate is so high that getting rid of it is going to take 500 years.
Can a national policy on electronic waste work?
We require a national policy to take care of e-waste. Look at what the Chinese are doing so good. This is because they have created a simple system where they fully recycle their electronic waste, reclaim the resources, and create newer products. If only we started doing it. But we will not as we care less. China might be the enemy we think of, but that is not the case. The real enemy is us as we do not recycle properly. Our 2023 recycling rate is only 32%.
Creating Better recycling programs to combat e-waste is the only option we have. This will ensure that each state does its part when it comes to curbing this living eco-bomb. For years, we have been using China as a dumping ground for our waste. But that is not the case anymore. We need to recycle our trash. Especially our e-waste. More than half of our states are doing their part. By creating state and federal laws that prevent electronics from being dumped in trash. But we need to be more vigilant. By using circular economy as a tool, we can create jobs and reclaim resources. Why harm the planet earth by mining resources?
Here is a thought you can ponder on. Do we have another earth? The answer is NO. Then why damage it?