Make Haste and Stop the E-Waste
E-waste is damaging, not only to our environment but also to our future generations. The older generation is not entirely at fault either; in fact it is the younger folks who are buying and subsequently throwing away their expired electronics. Many older people don't even use computers and cell phones, the biggest contributors to the toxic mixture of lead, barium, cadmium, and mercury we are finding in our groundwater.
According to DoSomething.org, the self-proclaimed "country’s largest not-for-profit for young people and social change," "E-waste represents 2 percent of America's trash in landfills, but it equals 70 percent of overall toxic waste" (http://www.dosomething.org/actnow/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-e-waste#). That number will only grow as long as we continue to produce and buy electronic devices that have short life expectancies.
On the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) website faq page, information about e-waste says that only 25 about percent of end of life electronics were collected for recycling in 2009 (http://www.epa.gov/wastes/conserve/materials/ecycling/faq.htm#general). That leaves almost 1.8 million short tons (based on a 2000 lb. ton as opposed to a metric ton) out of the 2.37 million tons of retired electronics either unaccounted for or, most likely, in the landfills.
Greenpeace has an interesting application on its website. They say that as much as 75 percent of our e-waste travels to Asia and Africa where it is dismantled by children who are at risk for problems related to the toxins found in them.
Disposal and recycling efforts need to improve before the potential for negative environmental impact can change. These include updating landfills to insure the waste doesn't seep and getting recyclers to become certified so that they will minimize that potential.
We can all do our part to help the environment and the futures for our children. It won't take much; just taking our e-waste to responsible recyclers is one way. Another way is to donate working electronics to programs that repair and make them available to other folks at reduced prices.
Whatever we do, we need to do it soon because our groundwater is being affected by heavy metals and other harmful toxins that can cause a number of conditions in people including birth defects, cancers, brain damage, anemia, other blood damage, kidney damage and in many cases, death.