Electronic products approaching the end of their useful life, better known as E-waste, pose a serious and dangerous concern during disposal, as some of these components contain hazardous materials that can threaten human life and the environment.
Discarded IT and telecommunications equipment (televisions, computers, fax machines, stereos, copiers, cell phones, batteries, and audio equipment); large appliances (A/C, refrigerators, cookers, microwaves, washing machines); small appliances (toasters, hair coffee machines, irons); and lighting equipment (electric lamps, LEDs) if incorrectly disposed (landfilled) can leach lead and other toxic substances into the soil and underground water.
This sort of waste, like chips and circuit boards contain cadmium and mercury that can cause irreversible effects on human health if disposed of improperly. Dioxin formed during the combustion of halogenated plastics; emissions from mismanaged smelting processes; and reagents used in recycling processes, like cyanide can also be detrimental to human health and the environment. So, how can these wastes be efficiently managed?
E-waste recycling has increased over the last decade across the globe. The number of organisations involved in the recovery of e-waste has increased, together with the range of policies and programs that support the collection and recycling of e-waste. Recycling stops the solid and hazardous components from going to a landfill, reduces the use of raw materials, and saves resources that can be used to create new products. Here are some useful tips for disposing of this type of equipment:
- Drop off old or unwanted electronic machines and appliances free of charge at recycling centres in your area to help increase the recovery of valuable materials
- Erasing sensitive data from your hard drive to ensure that it cannot be retrieved when you dispose off your PC or laptop. Simply deleting files is not enough.
- Old or damaged phones can also be recycled by dismantling and using the individual components – batteries, handsets, circuit boards – so find a drop-off point in your area
- Buy electronics and IT devices from manufacturers who offer no-cost or low-cost “take-back” or recycling programs.
- Contact your local council to find out the e-waste recycling services they offer
When you need to replace your old appliances and technology, think about anyone who could benefit from re-using it. You can gift your devices to relatives, friends, or donate to local schools and charities that refurbish for use. You could also sell your items through second-hand outlets or having a garage sale!
Rethinking your purchases, reducing your consumption, and refusing to buy into the newest fad can considerably reduce your e-waste footprint. You don’t have to get the latest technology every time, or function with a PC, laptop, tablet, and smartphone – all at the same time. Only purchase that you need, and reuse your old items rather than upgrade!