Everything You Need to Know About E-Waste
E-Waste is a term coined to describe the ever-growing mountain of obsolete technology that we have abandoned in favor of the newest gadget. With consumers pressured to “innovate or die”, old technology gets disregarded in favor of new ones which leads to an insurmountable amount of technological waste.
What Causes E-Waste?
E-Waste is a result of consumers choosing to replace their “old” gadgets with the newest ones on the market. Because companies try their best to boast how much better the latest smartphone or computer is, consumers, are compelled to buy a new computer about once every four years, and a new phone about once every two. Additionally, there are a very limited number of methods and ways to repair old devices, which causes most people to choose to purchase a new device rather than go through the hassle of repairing the old one. This planned obsolescence leads to millions of gadgets being thrown out, abandoned, or forgotten about every year.
How E-Waste Can Affect Children
The majority of devices that get thrown away wind up being imported into developing countries that “lack the capacity to reject imports or to handle these materials appropriately.” Many people in these countries employ children to rummage through the mountains of disregarded devices in search of valuable materials such as copper or gold. Because children’s hands are smaller and thus more dexterous than adults, they are regularly taken advantage of. However, this prolonged exposure to the inner workings of these gadgets can lead to “changes in lung function, DNA damage and increased risk of some chronic illnesses such as cancer and cardiovascular disease later in life.”
What Can We Do About It?
Already countries are realizing the severe negative impacts E-Waste has on the world and the environment. EU officials just approved a law that “requires all phones and electronics to use a standard, brand-agnostic charger, with the potential to limit how many different wires the average consumer needs to own.” Additionally, there are companies such as Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI) that are focused on making sure that facilities are properly disposing of E-Waste and figuring out how to increase the life span of different devices. “Earlier this year, Apple and Samsung launched their self-service repair stores, offering parts for users seeking do-it-yourself fixes for their smartphones.” By increasing the lifespan of devices, there will be far less waste winding up in landfills and causing harm to the environment.
We as consumers need to be much more aware of the waste we create by giving in to the culture of always having to have the latest device. The abandoning of our devices creates a ripple effect that impacts not only the people and environment around us but also the rest of the world.