How is E-waste disposed?
A landfill also known as a dump is a place where waste is disposed of by simply buring it in the ground. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that in 1997 there was more than 3.2 tons of E-waste sent to landfills. Also in 2000, more than 4.6 millions tons of E-waste was sent to landfills and in Honk Kong 10-20% of computers went to landfills.
The problem with this is that the landfills become filled with hazardous materials like Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, Hexavalent Chromium/Chromium VI, and Plastic--including PVC, Brominated flame retardants, Barium, and Beryllium, which are all found in the electronic items disposed in landfills. These toxins may leak out into the water supplies because no “state of the art” landfill can entirely stop leakage. Disposing via incineration is when waste is destroyed by being heated in high temperatures. These same toxins and ashes pollute the air, which can mix into the food chain especially in fish which could then be transferred to humans.
Recycling electronic waste is sometimes referred to as "e-cycling". In the first stage of the recycling process, electronics are generally broken down into various parts. This is sometimes referred to as the "demanufacturing process." Materials from those electronics such as glass, plastic, and aluminum are reused in other consumer goods. Heavy metals, such as mercury, and other toxins can not be reused. Recycling E-waste reduces the amount of waste in landfills and cuts down on the need to mine for such materials as copper, aluminum, and gold. In addition, recycling will assist in delaying or even preventing toxins from entering the ecosystem.
Recycling electronic goods is extremely difficult because many devices are composed of various toxic materials and many are designed in such a way that it can be extremely difficult to breakdown. In addition, many recycling programs supposedly are meant to protect environment from E-waste but their true purpose is to make money. These recyclers take the valuable pieces from electronics like microchips and hard disks and then shipped to other companies who take any valuable pieces that are left. Then the invaluable pieces and toxics are sent to landfills or exported to less developed countries. According to SVTC, only 10% of all unwanted electronics are recycled properly. Some recycling processes, including incineration and acid treatments required to reclaim reusable materials, may release additional toxic by-products.