by Ilana Nevins, Eco Coalition Editor
This year almost 205.5 million computers were disposed. Of the disposed computers, 157.3 are trashed, and 48.2 million are recycled- only 18% recycling rate. In California, over 6,000 computers are discarded every day. Its time we more consciously consider the impact of this waste.
Not only do these computers use up valuable landfill space, they contain enormous amounts of toxins including Cadium, mercury, lead, and chromium. These hazardous materials can be found in Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) and Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) screens. These chemicals can have long-term effects on the brain, liver, kidney, reproductive organs and may cause cancer. Other externalities of computer e-waste are felt by workers and communities who are impacted by the unsafe recycling systems and growing landfills in developing countries. Besides the e-waste hazards from a computer and its disposal, the mere production of a computer consumes enormous amounts of energy and natural resources.
Approximately 81% of a computer’s total energy is used in its manufacturing while only 19% is consumed throughout its lifetime. The production of a computer uses 530 lbs of chemicals and 1.5 tons of water. Each desktop computer requires at least 10 times its weight in fossil fuels, compared to a refrigerator or car, which only needs 1 to 2 times its weight in fossil fuels. Consumer consciousness is essential to keep e-waste to a minimum- deciding whether or not a new computer is necessary can have a drastic impact.
However, recycling computers can significantly decrease the impact of our e-waste. Simply recycling aluminum may save up to 90% of the energy used to mine for new aluminum. Most computer manufacturers now have a computer takeback program in which they offer free recycling to consumers wishing to dispose of their computers. Manufacturers such as HP are taking actions to become greener, such as selling a special-edition desktop PC that consumes 45% less power than other PCs.
Computers are not only increasingly essential applications in our life, but they also have potential to drastically impact our lives unless we remain conscious of the possible effects of them-both before they reach the store and after they hit the trash can.
by Ilana Nevins, Eco Coalition Editor
Can our newest, most convenient electronics lead us toward a future of toxic trash? As technology continues to play a larger role in our world, and electronics continue to be disposed, our planet simply cannot keep up. E-waste, or electronics that are broken, discarded or unused, includes cell phones, televisions, batteries, refrigerators, stereos, and computers. Although these items are essential parts of our daily life, we often do not consider what happens to them once we throw them in the trash.
Currently, e-waste is increasing at a rate double that of any other waste, and there are no signs of it slowing down. Only 15-20% of our annual e-waste is recycled, while the rest fills our landfills and incinerators. Much of our e-waste is shipped to developing countries. Often these countries have extremely weak regulation of the disposal of e-waste and disregard for the hazardous effects. E-waste is discarded in landfills where the toxins travel into nearby water supplies and atmosphere, harming surrounding communities. Also, e-waste undergoes incineration, which releases the toxins into the air through burning it, often causing bioaccumulation of toxins in wildlife, especially fish.
A frightening amount of toxins are found in even the simplest of our electronics. Cathode ray tubes (CRTs) contain lead, which disrupts the nervous system, and are found in T.V. and computer monitors and circuit boards. The neurotoxin Mercury is found in flat screens. Cadium, a carcinogen, is common in batteries and circuit boards and is extremely toxic to the bones and kidneys. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), found in connectors, cables and plastic cables, has detrimental effects on humans immune and reproductive systems. Unfortunately, disposal of these hazardous items is not heavily regulated, and the health effects are already impacting many lives.
However, alternative disposal methods may help decrease the effects of e-waste on humans and our planet. Many companies now have take-back programs in which they discard consumers’ used or broken products for free. These companies often reuse and recycle the disposed appliances. Recycling e-waste helps to conserve our resources and reduce our energy usage by reusing metals, plastics, circuit boards, etc. Individuals can donate their used electronics to thrift shops such as Goodwill or to a local recycling center. To find a place to donate your e-waste, visit http://www.ecyclingcentral.com/. With growing consciousness regarding materials and accessibility to alternative disposals, the hazardous effects of e-waste can become trash of the past.
Contributed by Eco Coalition and cdrecyclingcenter.org
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