E-waste recycling has many environmental benefits. Electronic Waste (E-Waste) is a word used to identify any electronic equipment that has been discarded because it is broken, unwanted, nearing end-of-life, or no longer in use. Electronic equipment and components that makeup E-waste include computers, printers, phones, televisions, stereos, among others. Commercial places also have e-waste like broken dialysis machines, massage chairs, imaging equipment, autoclaves, etc. You can break down everyday e-waste items into the following groups:
- Home appliances
- Communications and Information Technology Devices
- Electronic Utilities
- Office and Medical Equipment
- Home Entertainment Devices
In today’s technological world, e-waste definition may not necessarily mean broken or obsolete products that have stopped working. Technological advancements have rendered some electronic equipment e-waste even when they are in perfect condition. Think of the VCRs lying around for years after DVD players hit the market. When manufacturers think they can make an improved version of a product, previous versions may become electronic waste.
If you look at electronic waste statistics over the years, the numbers are incredibly high, with a significant percentage of unwanted but working electronic devices. For instance, cell companies make mobile phones that are not made to last for more than two years to increase sales. E-waste is one of the most rampantly growing environmental problems globally, so regulations were put in place to oversee waste electronic waste disposal.
Safe electronic recycling produces significant benefits of recycling electronic waste to the global economy at large. Electronic Recycling can even start from your personal space and move up to offices and substantial manufacturing companies.
Effects of E-Waste On The Environment And Safety
When you dive into the benefits of recycling electronic waste, it is imperative to know the effects of this waste on the environment and the safety of living things. Here is a summary of a few general results:
- Most electronics contain toxic elements such as lead, nickel, zinc, and chromium. The release of this to the environment causes health problems to humans when they encounter them, either by touch or orally.
- Improper disposal of this waste by burning causes a release of toxic gases in to the atmosphere, damaging the atmospheric layers.
- E-waste disposed of in landfills seeps into the groundwater, causing problems for both land and sea animals. A lot of fish that die from unnatural causes contain some of these toxic substances in their system.
- Development of neurological, reproductive, and other biological problems for human beings that inhale, apply or ingest any substance with e-waste items.
- E-waste has rendered some geographical areas toxic for human beings and other animals because of the sole purpose of being used as dumping sites. For example, Ghana’s Agbogbloshie area is one of the largest informal e-waste dumping sites in Africa and was ranked among the top 10 world’s worst toxic threats.
- High levels of e-waste toxic substances in the soil kill plants and reduce agricultural harvest. Without a robust agricultural industry, both human beings and animals suffer from a lack of food.
- Atmospheric changes due to toxic gases lead to climatic changes such as global warming.
Even as the e-waste problem keeps growing, the recycling industry has also grown significantly. You can identify different areas globally dedicated to e-waste recycling and providing jobs to hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. A country like China handles almost 70% of the world’s e-waste recycling needs. Otherwise, without proper recycling, much of this waste ends up in scrap metal dealers’ hands.
A significant level of good can come from proper recycling, as you will see in this article. Not only does it make the environment better, but communities are also protected from health hazards that come from these wastes. You can find some environmental benefits of e-waste recycling below:
Environmental Benefits of Recycling Electronic Waste
1. Reduced Mining of Virgin Resources
Most electronic components contain minerals and metallic elements that must be mined from different mining fields across the world. The continuous mining of resources is fast, leading to their depletion and affecting the environment negatively.
If you look at conflict mineral statistics from areas in and around DRC Congo, illegal mining is on the rise, and the effects on the overall wellbeing of the regions are not pleasant. When you recycle electronic components like circuit boards, there is an impressive amount of these elements like tin, gold, palladium, copper, and silver harvested from e-waste.
For instance, harvesting tin from electronic components reduces a significant percentage of tin mined from underground resources. Imagine this: you could get 40-800 times more gold and 30-40 times more copper from 1 ton of circuit boards than from mining 1 ton of ore.
2. Provides an Environmentally Friendly Source Of Resources To Manufacturers
Every time you buy a new electronic device, the metallic and plastic composition are from a resource somewhere. When the old ones are thrown out, the negative impact is double: more metallic and plastic resources must be dug up, and the waste hurts the environment. Instead, practicing safe recycling of unwanted electronics means that you save the environment from being over-exploited, and you also keep it safe from unnecessary e-waste.
Since e-waste does not readily decompose, dumping these metallic elements instead of reusing them only adds to bio-hazards to the environment and human beings. Proper e-waste recycling means that manufacturers have an environmentally friendly source of metallic and plastic materials to produce new devices. For example, hard drives can be processed into aluminum ingot for use by automotive manufacturers. As a result, you get to reduce the depletion of these resources and reduce e-waste dumping on the environment.
3. Prevent usage of landfills
Landfills are serious environmental hazards and impact all living things, humans, plants, and animals alike. When you fail to recycle electronic waste from your house or commercial buildings properly, this waste ends up in the hands of informal waste operators who dump this in landfills. After a while, the metallic, plastic, and toxic materials in this e-waste start leaching through the landfills’ ground and find their way into nearby water sources.
The more e-waste there is that is not recycled correctly, the greater the need to have landfills for disposal. One of the benefits of recycling electronic waste is reducing landfills that have hazardous effects on the environment, especially bodies of water. When you place your e-waste in the hands of certified recyclers, then you can be sure that proper care is taken to reuse elements that can be reused and recycled.
4. Protect Bodies of Water from Toxic Waste Poisoning
As you have seen above, landfills release toxic chemicals into the groundwater, and this finds its way to nearby wells and freshwater bodies. Before you know it, people and animals that use this water start getting sick from chemical poisoning.
E-waste recycling prevents a fair amount of these toxic elements from leaching into bodies of water and ensures the water is kept fresh and safe. Keeping water clean is one of the benefits of recycling electronic waste.
5. Save Land and Energy
Primary productions of metals from mining ores consume a considerable amount of energy and land. Digging and drilling holes underground and leaving these places as wasteland harms the environment. You can agree with us that land with gaping holes and pits is not a pleasant sight. Also, some of these holes only end up destabilizing surrounding grounds whenever there are heavy rains.
Electronic recycling can help curb continuous mining and helps global environmentalists save energy and to avoid land wastage. Energy is a resource we cannot afford to misuse, and saving it is a way of thanking mother nature for the precious gift and is one of the benefits of recycling electronic waste.
6. E-waste recycling helps reduce air pollution
Among the benefits of recycling electronic waste is the ability to reduce air pollution from toxic gases. You can do your part in ensuring that poisonous gases are not released into the air that we need to breathe by ensuring the old and no-longer-in-use electronic devices are correctly recycled rather than being burnt directly. Perhaps you have noted that from the effects of e-waste to the environment, high temperatures on the components cause them to release poisonous gases into the air, which are harmful to living things.
Also, mining activities involve blasting on rocks and gases such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and dust. For example, for 1 ton of gold or platinum, about 10000 tons of Carbon dioxide is emitted. Electronic recycling cuts a significant percentage of toxic gas emissions and, as a result, protects the air from pollution.
7. Electronic Recycling Promotes the Integrity of Agricultural Soil
E-waste recycling not only prevents toxic chemicals from leaching into the soil and making it poisonous from plant growth, but it also prevents the release of poisonous gases and dust through mining to surrounding agricultural fields. A large percentage of the world’s population relies on agriculture as a livelihood source and ensuring the fields are fertile and safe to grow plants is essential to promoting overall human wellbeing.
As one of the benefits of recycling electronic waste, promoting the integrity of soil, promotes agriculture, and the growth of natural green resources for plants, animals, and human beings. A greener environment leads to cleaner air and safer home for all.
8. Reduce health hazards on the environment
Localities like Guiyu that are hubs for waste disposal have issues of residents experiencing health problems such as skin disease arising from improper e-waste disposal. When the environment is ailing, inhabitants will ail too.
Proper e-waste recycling helps protect the environment from hazardous and toxic substances that can hurt people who use these natural resources. You can avoid environmental hazards from leaching metals, poisonous gases, and dust from mining and burning waste by safe recycling of e-waste.
9. Promote fisheries resources
E-waste is a complex composition of different toxins that, when dumped in landfills, leach into water bodies and kill fishes and other water animals. There is a significant amount of lead, copper, mercury, cadmium, and other deadly material that permeates the streams and rivers and kills water life in the end. Mercury, for example, is a neurotoxin that can kill in mere minutes. Recent studies from scientists have shown that dead fishes found in deposits on sea and waterbed contain high mercury levels determined to come from human activities around water bodies.
E-waste recycling helps reduce water poisoning and jeep it fresh for water animals and plants. As a result, you help preserve the freshwater ecosystem for plants, animals, and even people who depend on them as livelihood sources.
10. Availability of more resources in recycling
You have now determined that there are many e-waste recycling sites all over the world. As more electronic waste is handed over to these recyclers, they can deliver readily available resources. Whenever you dispose of electronics that you deem obsolete, these give rise to more purified resources than starting from scratch through mining and refining.
A good example is the amount of copper and gold that you find from 1 ton of electronic devices than 1 ton of ore. The process of cleaning and reusing this to make other components is easier on the environment and produces more than digging through miles and miles of the ground; it is one of the benefits of recycling electronic waste. The metals gathered from electronic waste components only require smelting into ingots and are then ready to use. Most of the electronic devices that are considered waste can be reused with a few upgrades if you think of it.
The benefits of recycling electronic waste are great, and the impact on the environment is significant. You cannot ignore that proper recycling is something that every company needs to embrace. However, when informal recyclers take over e-waste recycling, the results negatively impact the environment and people who work in those areas. From cases of poisoning, skin infections, and neurological problems, you can see statistics about people suffering from the effects of improperly recycled and disposed of e-waste.
What can be done to reduce the impact of waste? You can use your devices much longer to reduce the build-up of waste and come up with safer ways of collecting broken and obsolete devices and directing the companies certified in e-waste recycling like CJD E-Cycling. You can even start an initiative in your company, neighborhood, or with your friends to have electronic components that are being used to be safely collected in one place for safe recycling.
Proper recycling starts with you as it climbs up to the other stakeholders in the electronic industry. If you chose to toss your electronics into the trash or dustbin, they would most likely end up in landfills, which is something environmentalists are trying to avoid. Some of these are shipped to developing countries who dispose of them in informal settlements and harm their residents. Instead, work with certified recyclers who help businesses attain eco-friendly certifications of proper disposal.