Our world is continuously developing and growing, along with this so does our technology. Now days ‘out with the old, in with the new’ is a common reoccurrence within technology, and the consequences that follow this is what we call, E-waste.
“20–50 million tons of e-Waste are generated worldwide every year. Large amounts of e-Waste are sent to China, India and Kenya where lower environmental standards and working conditions make processing e-Waste more profitable” (Causes International Inc. 2014).
With our environment already being subject to climate change and air pollution, e-waste is only contributing more to these issues and unless large companies start producing and creating awareness for ‘greener media’ ways, changes will be slow to come.
So who exactly is being affected by this?
China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, and the Philippines can receive up to 50 to 80 percent of e-waste (McAllister, 2015). Dumping also occurs in Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe.
Not only is the environment being affected by these chemical wastes but these communities are also exposed to health problems from the fumes that are released into the air. Children are especially vulnerable to this exposure as they are still growing. These fumes have great impact on their health including stunting their growth. These health risks that are occurring from the e-waste are a result from the chemicals/materials that are present in the technological waste. These materials are; copper, lead, cadmium, chromium and brominated retardants. The inhalation of these fumes result in headaches, cancer and can even affect unborn children, sometimes resulting in still births (Grant, Goldizen, Brune, Neira, Van Den Berg & et al. 2013).
So what exactly can we do about this?
Large companies such as apple need to rethink what impact their products are having on the environment. Apple has a new version of their IPhone basically every year and along with that are their new chargers, new headphone sets and IPad’s. With the continuous growth of products there needs to be new and creative ways of discarding our technological appliances instead of just dumping them and hoping someone else will sort out their mess.
The ‘Indian journal of occupational and environmental medicine’ listed some recommendations for actions. It is mentioned that the main solution for the e-waste situation lies with the idea of prevention starting at the manufacturing source or the ‘precautionary principle’ (Pinto, 2008).This looks at the idea of developing waste minimisation techniques and designing sustainable, lasting products.
Some of the points listed for waste minimisation include adopting:
- Inventory management
- Production process modification
- Volume reduction
- Recovery and reuse
- Sustainable product design involves:
- Rethinking on procedures of designing the product (flat computers)
- Use of renewable material and energy
- Creating electronic components and peripherals of biodegradable material
- Looking at a green packaging option
- Utilizing a minimum packaging material (Pinto, 2008)
Causes International Inc. 2014, E-waste Facts, viewed 28 April 2015 https://www.causesinternational.com/ewaste/what-is-ewaste
McAllister, L. 2015, The Human and Environmental Effects of E-waste, Population Reference Bureau, viewed 28 April 2015 http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2013/e-waste.aspx
Grant, K, Goldizen, F, Brune, M-N, Neira, M, Van Den Berg, M & et al. 2013, Health Consequences of exposure to e-waste: a systematic review, vol, 1, no.6. viewed 28 April 2015 http://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(13)70101-3/abstract
Pinto, V. N. (2008). E-waste hazard: The impending challenge. Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 12(2), 65–70, viewed 28 April 2015, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2796756/