Trash. Garbage. Waste. Refuse.
Whatever you want to call it, we humans produce a lot of it.
Ok, that’s not news at all. Candy wrappers, paper cups, dirty napkins… We all throw these into the trash every day.
But I’m not here to talk about regular old trash. I’m here to talk about E-waste.
Every year, companies come out with new electronics – new cellphones, new computers, new TVs… So what happens to our old gadgets after we replace them with new ones?
Well, a lot of it ends up with the rest of our trash – in landfills. But the electronic waste contains toxic heavy metals and other pollutants that can harm the environment.
So what about those great E-waste recycling programs we’re hearing about? Unfortunately, some of these programs aren’t as great as they seem.
In fact, a large portion of E-waste ends up in gigantic “digital dumping grounds” located in developing countries such as Ghana, China, and India.
Many recyclers, instead of taking the time and money to make sure the electronic waste is disposed of safely and responsibly, simply ship the waste to these countries.
In Ghana for example, exporters of e-waste took advantage of the people’s desire to advance technologically by calling the tons of old computers they were bringing into the country “donations.” Half of these “donations” did not even work.
This has caused a whole slew of problems. Criminals scour discarded hard drives for personal information to use in scams. Men, women, and even children, breathe in hazardous and toxic fumes while burning computer parts to salvage precious metals to make a living.
How do you make sure your old electronics won’t end up in some Third World country? Below are two useful websites.
e-Stewards recyclers must meet high standards of environmental and social responsibility.
Visit http://www.e-stewards.org/local_estewards.html to find responsible e-recyclers near you.
The International Association of Electronics Recyclers is also a good resource. Visit http://www.iaer.org/search/.
If you would like more in-depth information about electronic waste, you can check out the Frontline video at http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/ghana804/video/video_index.html