Basics Part II:: Why is it a problem?
Why is it a problem?
The problem that arises with E-waste is that many of these electronics end up in other countries where they are a hazard to the environment as well as the human body. Not only do E-waste products contain a number of toxic elements, such as mercury, but they are not biodegradable. Nonbiodegradable items, such as E-waste, can not decay and so pile up and cause a problem to the environment and the communities that are being filled with trash.
In 2003, the U.S generated about 2.8 million metric tons of E-waste, including millions of computers, televisions, cell phones and other electronic equipment. But, only 290 thousand electronics were re-used or recycled. The other hundreds of thousands of trashed electronics sit in land fills or were burned and most were shipped elsewhere.
In 2002, only 12.75 million computers ended up in a recycling center in the United States. Most of which were not properly recycled but, as study shows, 80% was really not recycled but exported to countries such as Africa and Asia. Most of them end up in other countries because it is more cost efficient to export E-waste then to actually pay for the workers that would recycle them properly.The people in other countries hopelessly try to repair the electronics and also search for the little materials such as gold, copper, steel, plastics, aluminum, printer toner, and circuit boards found in E-waste products that they can sell.
Take a cell phone for example. Cell phones are being replaced at a rapid rate but what happens to all the old cell phone? Well they along with other electronics contribute to a growing E-waste problem. Even cell phones and other electronics that are “recycled” don’t really get recycled. It is estimated that between 50-80 percent of all electronics that are “recycled” are quickly sent to container ships bound for China and other destinations. Some ofthe electronics are dumped and others are burned in incinerators, but most are not recycled.
“WEEE Basics: What is E-waste?”.E-waste guide.2007. 1 April 2007. http://www.e-waste.in/weee_basics/
Pucket, Jim and Ted Smith, ed. “Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asian”. BAN. 25 Feb. 2002. 1 April 2007. http://www.ban.org
“The Great E-waste Recycling Debate”.UNEP.2002. 1 April 2007. http://www.vitalgraphics.net/waste/html_file/36-37_ewaste.html
Graph used with permission from BAN