If you've ever wondered where that old computer or other electronic device goes when you toss it in the dumpster, you might be surprised when you find out. While some are incinerated or wind up in landfill, others are exported to other continents. These are just a few of the places e-waste is ending up in the world.
It was estimated by the EPA that almost 5 million tons of e-waste accounted for total landfill waste around the millennium. Electronics contain lots of hazardous chemicals that can easily contaminate the air and areas around it. While countries, such as many in Europe, ban the dumping of e-waste into landfills, others like Hong Kong allow it.
Incineration seems harmless until you think about all of the toxic content that's released into the air from e-waste. Cadmium, lead, and mercury all contaminate breathing air from e-waste being incinerated. As you look deeper into the ramifications and consequences, incineration is not such an effective method for disposal after all.
Refurbishments and Reuse
Rather than dumping off their electronics as waste, many people sell them to manufacturers so that they can be used in the future. Refurbishing is easily one of the best ways e-waste is disposed of because it provides more utility to the tossed product. The good news is that all of the computer or other device are reused by other people at some point, and harmful toxins aren't released back into the atmosphere.
In some cases, the parts and metals inside computers and other electronics can be broken down for use in other ways. While this might seem like a viable solution for getting rid of e-waste, it comes with its drawbacks. Recycling can be dangerous, if it takes place in a scrapyard with no protocols in place for safety. Donating e-waste to a recycling plant is your best bet for disposal.
You might be surprised to learn that e-waste is often exported to other countries for scrapping or basic dumping. This is highly illegal in some areas, yet the problem is so large that it goes uncontrolled for the most part. As the world continues to produce large amounts of e-waste, the mysterious question grows even more: What can the world expect to be done about e-waste disposal? Will countries keep incinerating, dropping it into landfills, or illegally exporting it to other areas of the world? Only time will tell.
Informational Credit to STS Electronic Recycling