Learn About E-Waste

WHAT IS E-WASTE?

Electronic waste or “e-waste” consists of discarded electronic appliances and products like televisions, computers, printers, scanners, cell phones and accessories that are deemed ‘unwanted’ or ‘obsolete’ by the owner.

Cell phones and computers are causing the biggest problem because they are replaced most often. While all these electronic gadgets are safe to use, they pose a threat when thrown in trash or disposed of in a landfill, as they contain toxic materials like lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium.

WHAT HAPPENS TO E-WASTE?

According to Greepeace, e-waste is one of the fastest growing types of waste in the world today and much of it is dumped in Africa and Asia. The e-waste generated either end up in landfills or incinerated, and more often not, exported to developing countries where it’s recycled.

When disposed in landfill or incinerated, the toxic materials in e-waste are released and pose the risk of leaching in the soil or polluting the air. This can lead to contamination of the ground water and accumulation in the food chain; thereby posing a threat to human health and the environment.

REUSE VS RECYCLE – While recycling is the easy option for managing e-waste, it can pose a great health risk to those who handle them if done in an unregulated and uncontrolled environment. In developed countries, recycling takes place in recycling plants under controlled conditions. But the problems arise when this e-waste is exported to developing countries where it’s handled by marginalized workers in uncontrolled and unregulated environments.

Reusing on the other hand will extend the life of electronics. This is a great option to reduce e-
waste, conserve resources while impacting lives.

E-WASTE AND DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

In Canada, we may take a certain amount of comfort in programs that offer to recycle used or obsolete computers and electronics. However, few of these programs recycle locally. According to Greenpeace, 50% to 80% of e-waste collected for recycling is exported to developing nations, including India, China, the Far East and Africa. In these countries, poor and marginalized workers, including women and children, work in the most inhuman conditions to extract precious components, while risking their own health.

 

HEALTH HAZARDS OF E-WASTE

MATERIALSHEALTH RISK
Lead Damages the kidneys and central nervous, immune endocrine and vascular systems. Impairs brain development in children
Brominated Flame Causes cancer
Retardants Damages the thyroid, liver, neurological, endocrine and immune systems
Arsenic Causes cancer. Damages the liver, kidneys, reproductive and vascular systems
Mercury Causes emotional instability. Damages the kidneys, nervous, respiratory and reproductive systems
Cadmium Causes cancer, bone disease. Damages the reproductive and respiratory systems