While efficient waste solutions continue to be prioritized in the workplace and at home to ensure a brighter future for our planet, there’s still one harmful form of solid waste that doesn’t seem to draw enough attention: electronic waste.
Electronic waste (E-waste) is a growing commercial recycling problem that many experts say will only continue to get worse moving forward. And as technology proceeds to evolve at rapid, unforeseen paces, it’s safe to assume that the importance of properly disposing of outdated and unused electronic products will need to be exponentially emphasized.
Much of the problem for addressing E-waste simply stems from a lack of knowledge or awareness on what to do with it, or why it’s harmful. So, in order to confront this spiraling ecological issue, let’s take a look at four reasons why electronic waste is so harmful to our planet, and ways that we can reduce waste at work or at home to address this matter and foster more environmental sustainability.
What Is Electronic Waste?
The common definition for E-waste is essentially any electronic product that is nearing the end or has already reached its “useful life.” According to the EPA, Americans are estimated to cumulatively possess over 3 billion electronic products.
These can include, but are not limited to, the following:
● Cell phones
● Laptops or computers
● Printers and scanners
● LED bulbs
● DVD or VCR players
● Fax machines
● Children’s toys
● Exercise equipment
As you can imagine, the list for different types of E-waste goes on and on. But more importantly, as new inventions and technology continue to be produced, more and more electronic accessories become obsolete. This is how billions of electronic products all over the world turn into waste every year.
How Is E-Waste Harmful?
For starters, the sheer volume of E-waste is escalating at an unsustainable pace. In 2019, there were more than 53 million tons of E-waste generated by the world, and experts expect that number to increase to nearly 75 million in 2030. In fact, every year, the total number of E-waste rises by 2.5 million, and in 2019, only 17.4% of the world’s E-waste was effectively collected and recycled.
But the rising volume of E-waste isn’t even the most dangerous problem about it. While E-waste all in all only represents around 2% of waste in U.S. landfills, it equates to approximately 70% of all overall toxic waste!
Most electronic products are made of a collection of materials ranging from copper, gold, silver, platinum, lithium, cobalt, palladium, and a wide variety of other elements. However, they also possess a number of other toxic materials and metals, such as mercury, lead, cadmium, beryllium, and a number of brominated flame retardants – all of which are extremely hazardous and toxic to the environment and human health systems and here are a few examples.
One of the biggest dangers that waste disposal creates is the pollution of landfill soil.
Because electronics have hazardous materials in them and are not biodegradable, they can create large amounts of damage to the landfill area. This means that the contaminants can change the biological properties of the soil in the landfill, meaning more potential harm to the surrounding community.
Water Supply Contamination
The next concern is when the electronics get into the landfill, and it rains, the chemicals in the electronics will run with the water, Which can end up in a significant body of water like the water supply of a community. In turn, this affects not only the community but also the water ecosystem.
In many cases, incinerators are used to dispose of waste, and when this happens with electronics, it can release hydrocarbons into the air. These not only make our air quality worse, but they can cause a greenhouse effect which is warming the surface of the earth.
When e-waste contaminates an area, it affects the surrounding area and the landfill, so the plants and animals in the area can also be affected. Any herbivore that eats plants will now be consuming these toxins, which can cause a reaction through the food chain, especially if lead and mercury are involved which is why environmental sustainability is a growing need.
The largest concern is its effect on the human body because mercury alone can cause damage to the central nervous system and other areas of the body. Arsenic can be ingested through air pollution; it can cause lung and kidney damage, while lead can lead to fetal development in children. These are just a few examples of the issues that e-waste can create in the natural environment.
Is E-Waste Recyclable?
Essentially all electronic items are recyclable, but it comes down to a matter of effectively disposing of them. Unwanted electronic products typically cannot be placed in commercial or residential recycling bins. One of the most efficient ways to properly dispose of E-waste is by consulting with a professional and licensed waste solutions company.
At LJP Waste Solutions, we have the equipment, staff, and resources necessary to ensure that any E-waste you provide us will be adequately handled, processed, and re-used. In fact, utilizing our services provides customers with detailed reports of exactly how many forms of E-waste collected become recycled and restored.
Working alongside us will help ensure your E-waste receives a second life and doesn’t sit in a landfill somewhere, collecting dust and releasing harmful toxins into the environment!
What Are Other Solutions to Get Rid of E-Waste?
Maintaining your electronics is a sustainable choice, and extending the life of your electronics also saves you money. Keep the items clean, unplug them before 100% to keep the battery life longer, and don’t keep them overloaded with data, so they run more smoothly.
If your accumulative E-waste is rather minimal, there are other ways aside from appropriate recycling that will help these products avoid becoming junkyard rubbish.
Donate to Thrift Stores
Electronic products such as television sets, laptops, computers, DVD or VCR players, and more, can always be donated to local thrift shops that accept such goods.
Turn Old Phones Into Your Mobile Provider
Discarded cell phones in particular are usually accepted by either your cell phone provider or other retail stores, which in turn are generally used to restore broken phone parts or transformed into new phone accessories.
Find New Uses
Repurpose them by utilizing them for other sources like an old cell phone used as an MP3 or GPS instead of purchasing new items.
Fix Broken Items
Learn to upgrade and fix broken electronics. This way, it will save you money by not replacing the item as often and keep less waste out of landfills.
Rent New Electronics
Rent the equipment that you are needing to utilize, especially if it is only for a limited amount of time. Rentals are not only environmentally friendly but cost-effective because you are only paying for the amount of time that you need to use the item.
Educate others by helping to raise awareness on how to properly dispose of their electronics. This will cut back on the amount they are sending to a landfill while at the same time teaching them so they can teach others.
Support Sustainable Brands
Purchase products that are environmentally friendly like Energy Star items. These not only lower electricity bills but also reduce the number of resources used by the environment.
Use the Cloud
Online data storage is another useful tool that can prevent needing to purchase more electronic storage. The data is uploaded to a cloud service which can then be accessed anywhere in the world for a free or small fee.
Let Us Help You Do Your Part for Sustainability
Whether you’re in dire need of efficient E-waste disposal, or you’re simply looking for more suitable, proactive waste-to-energy solutions, LJP Waste Solutions is ready and willing to help meet your sustainability goals any way we can.
You can contact us online today to speak to our team of experts on how we can manage, process, and reuse your commercial or residential waste, or give us a call at 507.625.1968 to learn more about how you can help us achieve our goal of a zero-landfill initiative.