Gadgets have become an essential part of our everyday lives. An estimated 55% of Canadians have a smartphone, and countless others own a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. While these gadgets have greatly changed the way we communicate, learn, and live, they do have their drawbacks. Most notably, electronic gadgets that aren’t recycled properly can be incredibly toxic to the earth and our environment. That’s why electronic recycling is such an important topic that deserves our awareness.
But just how toxic to the environment are discarded electronics? What exactly happens when we don’t follow proper electronic recycling protocol?
Every year, millions of tons of electronics are disposed of across the world. This includes things like computers, phones, TVs, tablets, and a host of other devices. Many of these electronics contain toxic materials like nickel, mercury, lead, and cadmium. If these devices in end up in landfills, they could end up harming human health and the environment.
One of the major harms of simply tossing electronics in the trash rather than recycling them is that these devices often end up in the hands of scavengers who strip them down to sell their metals. Unfortunately, the process of retrieving usable metals from electronics is often very toxic and hazardous. This processing typically takes place in countries – like China, India, and Pakistan, to name a few – that don’t have laws in place to protect workers or to prevent environmentally harmful recycling practices. In most cases, the low-level workers who are forced with this task are given no protective equipment, and they have to breathe all sorts of dangerous, toxic chemicals. These same chemicals are also released into the atmosphere, putting other people at risk and harming the earth.
When the metals in our gadgets are stripped by these scavengers, they can get into the water that we drink and the air that we breathe. That’s millions of tons of metals causing serious damage to our earth and, as a result, our wellbeing.
Another problem with electronics dumping is that a lot of the metals used in our gadgets are actually rare and in limited supply. According to a BBC report, “China has warned that the decline in its rare earth reserves in major mining areas is ‘accelerating’, as most of the original resources are depleted…China accounts for more than 90% of the world’s rare earth supplies, but has just 23% of global reserves.”
Electronic Recycling: Doing Your Part
Thankfully, there are steps we can all take to reduce electronics dumping and to help save the environment from unnecessary damage. These days, recycling electronics is easier than ever before. There are reputable service providers that help homeowners recycle their unwanted electronics in an environmentally responsible manner.
Another thing you can do is to donate your old gadgets to those who need them. Most of the electronics that get dumped are actually still functional and in good working condition. You may know a friend or loved one who could still get good use out of your unwanted gadget, or you could donate it to a charity in your area that will ensure it gets used.
Finally, you could simply get more use out of the gadgets you own. Sure, new models are being released all the time, but that doesn’t mean you automatically need to rush out and buy them all up. Try to use your devices a little longer so you can get the most life out of them.
If we all do our part, we can limit the damage caused by electronic dumping. Following proper recycling practices for gadgets can go a long way to helping the environment. For more information, visit www.recycleyourelectronics.ca