What Is Electrical Waste?
The EPA defines electrical waste as “used electronics that are close to the end of their useful lives and are discarded or donated or given back to a recycler.” This includes computers, mobile devices, appliances, hardware for home entertainment, and medical equipment. Anything that contains electronic components is considered e-waste.
While it is easy to define what electronic waste is, it’s far more complicated to sum up the complexity of the many issues that surround it. Special interest groups, private industry and governments have been focusing on reducing e-waste globally and managing the many challenges of electric disposal and/or recycling. There are many reasons to implement solutions. However, many people are not able to see the impact of these issues on their lives. This is why international efforts are often blocked at grass root level.
What Are The Problems With e-Waste Exactly?
E-waste has many of the same environmental problems as items that are incinerated, dumped at sea or end up in landfills. These include pollution, habitat destruction and the loss of valuable natural resources. It also contains a number of additional problems that are uniquely concerning.
Environmental E-waste is a wide range of chemicals that can be harmful to the environment and people. Common substances include mercury, lead and brominated flame retardants. These chemicals can end up in soil, water and air if they are not properly disposed of. Many of these chemicals can also produce pollutants from their original mining. Reusing them would produce significantly less pollution than the mining of new raw materials.
Natural Resources: Most electrical waste is made up of precious metals such as gold and platinum as well as rare earth elements like cobalt, neodymium and neodymium. These materials are not easy to find, as their names suggest. They are often dangerous and costly to mine, and there is a limited supply. Electronics that are simply thrown away can take with them valuable natural resources that can be easily reclaimed or recycled.
Human Rights: Sometimes electronic waste is illegally exported from countries that do not have the right laws to properly dispose of it. It can be simply dumped once it is there. The most valuable materials may be recovered. However, the rest of the material is often buried underground or improperly incinerated. This pollutes the air, land and water, which in turn causes pollution. It is common to use underage labor and unsafe work conditions when trying to harvest materials.
Data Security: Computers, handheld devices and other computing equipment account for a growing portion of the global e-waste. If it is not properly destroyed, any data storage devices, such as hard-drives or flash memory, could contain sensitive information. This can have serious consequences for companies, individuals, and organizations. Proper “data disposal” is often neglected before these items can be disposed of.
Why Are Special Interest Groups, Industry And Governments So Concerned About Electrical Waste
It is not uncommon for special interest groups like environmentalists to be ahead of private citizens when it comes down to recognizing these kinds of concerns and taking action. These groups are focused on issues that directly concern them and their activism acts as a catalyst for governments to recognize the problem and take the appropriate actions.
Companies that have an interest in the legislation will take note and prepare to work within the new rules and laws once they are developed by lawmakers. They develop the technology and methods necessary to be compliant while still making profits.
It is now up to private citizens to embrace the new social paradigm, and to voluntarily follow the best practices and laws that apply directly to them. Compliance can be difficult if it requires extra effort, cost or a change in behavior. All three factors are important in the case of electronic waste, at least for the short-term, as technologies, processes and public opinion continue to mature.
Why Should People Care About Properly Disposing Of Electrical Waste?
The world shrinks as instantaneous global communication becomes easier, cheaper, and more reliable. No longer is the time of blissful ignorance, when events in one part of the world had little or no effect on others. Today, a local or regional problem can quickly become a national or global problem with far-reaching consequences.
- Individuals will feel the effects of environmental issues more strongly as they are affected in larger areas by increased water pollution, air pollution, and toxic waste disposal. This will have a negative impact on the quality of life for the public and increase healthcare costs.
- The rare natural resources, and the virgin raw materials, will become more scarce and more difficult to obtain. This will in turn increase the price of the products they are used.
- Human rights violations and third world apathy have never been accepted. However, the new global economy offers opportunities to enforce international laws that were not possible until recently. This will lead to higher prices for the products and raw materials that have been supplied by those who profited from these atrocities.
- Data security is a growing concern as the world gets more connected. eCycle Florida, which is certified to safely destroy data stored on storage devices, will be more apparent. However, certified data destruction is rapidly becoming a vital service for individuals and organizations. But are there enough providers to handle the anticipated surge in demand?
What Can I Do?
Education, influence, and action are the keys to addressing the many issues related to e-waste. You don’t have to make a huge effort or sacrifice if you want to make a real difference. These areas are best served at the grassroots level.
Education: Now that you have an understanding of some of the reasons that these issues should be addressed, it is time to share your knowledge with others. Although posting e-recycling information to social media and creating an instructional video on YouTube would be very helpful, sharing information with friends, family, or coworkers can help influence public opinion.
Influence: Nothing has a greater impact on our social behavior than our desire for conformity with the actions and attitudes our peers and those whom we respect. This is especially true for children. This is your chance to show others how to solve many of the most difficult electrical waste problems. You should make sure you dispose of electronics correctly and that you make it clear to others why, and how.
Action: This is where it all starts. You can make a positive impact on the world by starting with the person you see in the mirror. Even small actions can make all the difference.
There are endless opportunities to influence, educate, and take action. It’s not a question of whether or not e-waste management and reduction will occur , but when it will. Each day passes and our environment gets more polluted. Rare natural resources are decreasing, millions continue to suffer social injustice, and thousands of lives and businesses are destroyed by data breaches. It becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the trend towards cheaper electronics.
You can make a difference by visiting our website or blog to learn more about how you can address e-waste problems in your home, work, and community.
Contact eCycle Florida Now
If you reside in Florida, eCycle Florida, an R2 certified electronics recycling company, provides a drop-off area for residents and a pick up service for businesses. These services are available in:
It would save tons of energy each year if everyone disposed of all their electronics properly, which would result in a healthier planet.
eCycle offers a multitude of industries such as: