Dangers of E-Wastes and Our Smartphones

What Is E-Wastes

Electronic wastes, or e-wastes, refers to any discarded products with a battery or plug. The biggest e-wastes categories are small and large appliances and heating/cooling equipment.

According to an e-waste report from 2015 released by the United Nations, global electronic waste has reached record-high levels – of  41.8 million metric tons in 2014.

Each year, the total amount of electric and electronic equipment the world uses grows by 2.5 million tonnes. Phones, radios, toys, laptops – if it has a power or battery supply it’s likely to contribute to amount of “e-waste” generated.

In 2019 alone, the world generated 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste. That’s about 7.3 kilograms per person and equivalent in weight to 350 cruise ships. Asia produced the lion’s share – 24.9 million tonnes – followed by the Americas (13.1 million tonnes) and Europe (12 million tonnes), while Africa and Oceania generated 2.9 and 0.7 million tonnes respectively, according to report here.

By 2030, the global total is likely to swell to 74.7 million tonnes, almost a doubling of the annual amount of new e-waste in just 16 years. This makes it the world’s fastest-growing domestic waste stream, fuelled mainly by more people buying electronic products with shorter life cycles and fewer options for repair or recycle.

The Dangers of E-Waste

If not properly disposed of, e-waste is devastating to public health, resource conservation and the environment, as follows:

Soil Contamination

As e-waste breaks down, it releases toxic heavy metals. Such heavy metals include lead, arsenic, and cadmium. When these toxins leach into the soil, they influence the plants and trees that are crowing from this soil. Thus, these toxins can enter the human food supply, which can lead to birth defects as well as a number of other health complications.

Water Contamination

E-waste can also leach toxins into groundwater. This groundwater is what underlies many surface streams, ponds, and lakes. Many animals rely on these channels of water for nourishment. Thus, these toxins can make these animals sick and cause imbalances in our ecosystem. E-waste can also impact humans that rely on this water. Toxins like lead, barium, mercury, and lithium are also considered carcinogenic.

Air Pollution

Even when E-waste is incinerated at landfills, the process can release hydrocarbons into the atmosphere and pollutes the air that many animals and humans rely on. Also, these hydrocarbons can contribute to the greenhouse gas effect, which many scientists think is a leading contributor to global warming.

Smartphones and E-Waste

While it is difficult to ascertain how much smartphones contributed to the global e-waste problem, it is generally agreed that the volume is sizeable (It is estimated that around 10% of the total e-waste is made up of small electronics like smartphones, and that percentage is expected to continue rising) in view that smartphones are getting replaced in greater frequency nowadays – due to consumer preference for newer models.

Solution to the global e-waste problem

So, is there a solution that can reduce or prevent all this harm and truly reduce smartphone e-waste? The answer is a resounding YES, and the solution is in the hands of every consumer.  While it is difficult to prevent consumer from embracing newer technologies or gadgets, consumers can choose products that have a longer life span and fully embrace the concept of 4Rs (Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, Recovery). At Seibifon, the concept of 4Rs is our “raison d’être”.

e-waste recycle

Check out how the emerging refurbished phone market can help reduce E-Waste.

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