Why should we all be recycling our outdated or decommissioned electronics? There are many reasons why it is not only bad for the environment, it can negatively affect humans also. When electronic waste (e-waste) does not get properly recycled, it can get into the air, the soil, the water, and at the end of the day into humans. There are many commodities that come out of recycling your electronics such as steel, plastics, aluminum, cadmium, lead, glass, and much more. But are these toxic for you?
For instance, if someone wanted to just throw away a standard computer into the trash, it then goes to the landfill. Eventually the computer will be improperly dismantled, destroyed, or even burned, letting toxins and chemicals into the environment. Pieces from the destroyed computer could have contaminants like mercury, lead, cadmium, lithium, and more. The pollutants will then seep into the ground and into surrounding areas nearby, slowly causing more destruction than many think about.
Our air is easily something that we take for granted daily. However, e-waste recycling can greatly affect if we have clean air to breathe. “Chronic diseases and cancers are at a higher risk to occur when burning e-waste because it also releases fine particles, which can travel thousands of miles, creating numerous negative health risks to humans and animals,” (Elytus). These fumes can pose future respiratory issues for both groups.
When individuals think about tossing out old cell phones or maybe their dad’s old stereo, many people do not think about the ground below them. “The amount of soil contaminated depends on a range of factors including temperature, soil type, pH levels, and soil composition. These pollutants can remain in the soil for a long period of time and can be harmful to microorganisms in the soil and plants,” (Elytus). Take a second to think about what that means for animals that live off plants, or your friend who is on special diets like vegetarian, paleo, or vegan.
There is also an issue with e-waste affecting our water source locally. People who are living next to a landfill, for example, should be concerned about how much toxins are getting into groundwater influencing rivers, lakes, and streams next doors. “E-waste can also impact humans that rely on this water. Toxins like lead, barium, mercury, and lithium are also considered carcinogenic,” (Green E-Waste Recycling). Carcinogens can damage DNA and can increase your risk of developing cancer.
Humans are in the line of fire when people chose not to responsibly recycle their electronics. “Electronic waste contains toxic components that are dangerous to human health, such as mercury, lead, cadmium, polybrominated flame retardants, barium and lithium. The negative health effects of these toxins on humans include brain, heart, liver, kidney and skeletal system damage,” (Elytus).
To sum up, the importance of responsible recycling is a grand scheme project that is not just about trashing an old cell phone. No matter what, most electronics contain harmful commodities (and reusable ones) that need handled properly. If you are unsure how to handle them, you can google nearby electronic disposal companies, however, it is up to you to verify if they certified. Because overall, responsible recycling is about our health, our animals, and our environment.