Electronic waste, also known as e-waste, is defined as any electronic device that is no longer in use. This can include computers, cell phones, TVs, and even batteries.
As our world becomes more technology dependent, the amount of e-waste increases dramatically. More and more people are buying new devices instead of taking the time to repair their old ones, so older devices are no longer in use.
Companies are constantly updating their software and devices to keep up with the latest technology. This constant updating pushes people to buy new devices instead of trying to salvage old ones.
With the rise in popularity of cell phones and smartphones, an increasing number of these devices end up in landfills or incinerators where they remain active for many years to come due to lack of awareness about recycling these devices.
This article will discuss why e-waste has become an issue, especially in the 21st century.
People are buying more electronics
As people earn more money, they can afford to buy more things. As they can afford to buy more things, they can also afford to throw away more things.
As society develops and improves, people are constantly wanting new things. The constant influx of wants creates an ever-increasing demand for new products.
More people mean more consumers, which means companies make more sales and have more consumers for their products.
Companies rely heavily on consumer spending and demand to keep their business running. If consumers stopped buying their products, then companies would suffer significant losses.
Since companies rely so heavily on consumer spending, they sometimes offer discounts and deals to convince consumers to buy their product instead of a similar one. This constant trying to entice consumers to buy new products adds to the problem.
Electronic components are smaller and contain more metal
As technologies advance, the components in devices become smaller and more intricate. This is true for all electronics, including computers, phones, and other devices.
As technologies advance, devices also become lighter and more durable. While this is great for users, it makes disposal more difficult.
Due to the increasing demand for rare metals in electronics like smartphones and laptops, producers are not very eager to invest in recycling processes.
They would rather sell new phones and laptops than recycle them, which makes collecting and reusing electronics harder.
Furthermore, many people simply do not know how to properly dispose of their electronics or they may not have the resources to do so. As a result, millions of old phones, computers, and other gadgets end up in landfills or dumped somewhere else damaging the environment.
There is a global market for used electronics
As the world becomes more technology-oriented, the demand for new gadgets increases. More people are buying new smartphones, laptops, and smart TVs every year, which creates an ever-growing supply of used electronics.
Countries like China have become major sites for electronic waste processing. It is cheaper to process e-waste in China due to the labor costs, and it is also a way of bringing in more foreign currency.
The problem with this is that electronic waste processing isn’t always done in the safest or most environmentally friendly ways.
For example, some e-waste processors will simply dump electronic components in piles and set them on fire to remove any valuable materials like copper and gold. Others will mix e-waste with regular garbage and sort through the material to retrieve useful components.
Electronic components can contain toxic materials
It has been reported that up to 90% of electronic products are discarded because the owner upgrades to a new device or it is no longer working.
Many people do not know how to properly dispose of electronic devices, including phones, laptops, TVs, and gaming consoles. Because of the widespread use of these products, e-waste has become an issue, especially in the 21st century.
The reason for this is because many people keep their devices for a relatively short period of time before upgrading to the next best thing. This constant stream of new technology creates a high demand for used devices.
Companies that recycle electronics hire third-party companies to collect and dispose of the old electronics. However, there are cases where these third-party companies may not handle the e-waste properly.
Improper recycling can cause environmental damage
As e-waste recycling has become a more prominent issue, the ways in which people can recycle have also increased.
People can now donate their old phones to charities or nonprofit organizations. You can also drop them off at places like phone stores or official company stores. Some cities even have drop-off locations where you can leave them.
Official companies will usually pay close attention to how they recycle things, so if you are not willing to lose your device completely, this is a good way to help combat the problem.
Websites that provide online recycling are another way to combat the issue. These sites typically cost money but guarantee that your device is being taken care of and recycled properly.
Many countries do not have regulations for e-waste
As mentioned before, e-waste is a large problem due to the ever-changing technology and our desire to have the latest and greatest.
Many countries lack regulations for e-waste management. Because of this, it is easy to simply export your used electronics to other countries where they will take them and process them.
Unfortunately, in many cases, these other countries do not have the resources or knowledge on how to properly dispose of electronic waste. This can lead to environmental and health issues for the people dealing with the e-waste.
Some sources claim that 90% of all electronic waste ends up in just six developing countries, including China and Ghana. In addition, over 75% of all air pollution comes from just 10 countries, including China.