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The word recycling has become synonymous with the poor of the world.
On the cover:
Electronic waste, or e-waste, is a term for electronic products that have become unwanted, non-working or obsolete, and have essentially reached the end of their useful life. Because technology advances at such a high rate, many electronic devices become “trash” after a few short years of use.
The Ignored Threat
E-waste is short for electronic waste. This type of waste is fluid, in that it trades hands in a way that is not safe and healthy for the entire globe. Countries such as Thailand and India import redundant technology from the European Union. These products do not have services or backup support, and soon land up as waste. As an income for poor in these countries, they also import the actual e-waste. India and China has one of the largest e-waste recycle "plants" in the world. Tragically this is an informal recycling industry, which means that people are directly involved in the recycling process often without decent protective gear, gloves, goggles or even masks. The need for such protection is vital as the products contain highly toxic chemicals.
The elements that are obtained from this type of recycling are gold (used on the circuit boards (excellent as oxidation prevention), copper in wires (excellent as electricity conductor). These are just two of the reasons why e-waste is regarded as such "valuable" recycling material. It is an ignored threat, as it seems that the world does not know what to do with the constantly growing e-waste, and the best way to deal with it is to dump it somewhere where "recycling" is happening. It becomes someone else's problem.
Unfortunately for the world, it is a problem that cannot be ignored for much longer, especially as technology is developing at a much faster rate than before. Countries, such as India that is still importing e-waste, are creating more of its own as well. The increase in e-waste, means more toxic waste as well. The toxins are released into the air, affecting air quality and adds majorly to the depletion of the ozone layer. This happens because the only way the informal recyclers can release the valuable metals, is by burning it. It would serve no purpose if the copper wires are stripped one at a time, therefore, it is burnt in mass. The workers and the local people are directly affected by breathing in these toxins that are released. The persistent organic pollutants, or P-O-P’s are extremely harmful to the lungs. P-O-P’s include volatile tin, furans, polychlorinated biphenyls, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
The method for extracting precious metals from the circuit boards is the use of acid baths. These acid baths are often dumped on the ground, seeps into the ground, and can contaminate a wider area. The acid is also dumped in nearby rivers, and this creates a dangerous scenario for humans as well as wildlife. Another method is through the use of cyanide that is a highly toxic anion, and is extremely dangerous to the workers who do not wear any gloves.
The recycling of e-waste seems to be a bottomless pit, as it increases at a rate that leaves this waste in enormous mounds everywhere. It is an unnoticed threat, as many do not think of the consequences of discarding of an old computer, for example. This is becoming more prominent as the new products are becoming cheaper and can exchange hands faster, and end up somewhere as waste much sooner as well. Giving or selling an old computer to someone means that they have to pay for any repairs, which is very costly. If it malfunctions, therefore, it is discarded. Many countries, and individuals cannot always track the e-waste. E-waste has the potential to grow exponentially to exceed 1,200,000 by the year 2025 in India alone (according to Huo et al.
It is the responsibility of the entire world to be responsible for the e-waste that they create. It is important to understand what the consequences are for selling or gifting of even the smallest of electronic products. Wherever it ends up as e-waste, it could cause major health hazards for children and adults.
Reference: Huo, Xia, Lin Peng, Xijin Xu, Liangkai Zheng, Bo Qiu, Zongli Qi, Bao Zhang, Dai Han, and Zhongxian Piao. "Elevated Blood Lead Levels of Children in Guiyu, an Electronic Waste Recycling Town in China." Environmental Health Perspectives. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, 28 Mar. 2007. Web. 29 Feb. 2016
Bernadette Ontong, Contributing Writer: I have been a freelance writer for the last seven years. I also dabble in design, and take a stab at being an editor too. Writing is a way of expressing my creativity and giving wings to to the knowledge I aquire. Writing is about fulfillment and the added benefit of receiving rewards for it. (more...)