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How to reduce e-waste

Lead, cadmium and mercury are among the top hazardous metals found in e-waste.
Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Why would we need to reduce e-waste? We send electronics to other countries for recycling. What's so bad about that? Recycling is good, right? What's the harm in having a few conveniences in our lives? In America, we love our technology. It's a prevalent factor of modern life. From batteries to cell phones to video games we are obsessed with our gadgets and gizmos. Did you ever wonder what goes into electronics? Electronic waste is scarier than you think. Reducing e-waste is something we should all think long and hard about. Our lives depend on it.

Recycling

What's so scary about sending e-waste, such as old computers and cell phones to other countries? They need the work, right? It's cheap labor and they seem to be grateful to just have a job. Actually, these people are being paid very little to risk their lives recycling your worn out electronics. Standards for recycling plants are low. Unsafe practices mean workers are exposed to all kinds of hazardous metals and chemicals on the job. More than a few of those workers are children. Not only that, living areas around recycling plants are saturated with e-waste as well. Recycling is good, when it's done under strict regulation. If not, it's an extreme health risk for workers and residents. Reducing e-waste can help.

Batteries and light bulbs

Do you routinely toss old batteries in the trash? They are made using mercury. Did you know those new energy saving light bulbs contain mercury, as well? You can't just throw them in the trash. They're far from ecofriendly. If one breaks in your house, it causes an environmental health hazard. Electronic waste is scarier than you think. Unfortunately, this isn't just about batteries and light bulbs. Most electronic components contain numerous hazardous metals and chemicals. You might be surprised at what's found in some.

Chemicals and hazardous metals

Lead, cadmium and mercury are among the top hazardous metals found in e-waste. If you aren't familiar with the health risks of ingesting or contacting these metals, they include neurological problems, kidney disease and much more. Lead and mercury can build up in the body causing long term health effects. Barium is another item of concern. It can damage your heart, kidneys, spleen and muscular system.

Quantity

The US alone produced well over 2 million tons of e-waste in 2007. No wonder, considering our consumerist society. Imagine the figure 2010 will bring. Worst of all, the vast majority of that waste was improperly disposed of (more than 80%). It may be polluting a landfill near you or causing irreparable damage to a worker in an underdeveloped country. What can you, as an individual do to reduce e-waste? It may seem as if your efforts would be insignificant, but there is power in numbers. If we all do our part to reduce e-waste, it can make a huge difference in our future.

How to reduce e-waste

Do you have battery operated toys, tools or other items? Use re-chargeable or environmentally safe batteries. Dispose of all your e-waste properly, no matter how small. Re-think your spending habits as well. Does every family member need a computer? Couldn't you get by with one? Donate your old cell phones to charity for use by those who can't afford them. Stop tossing things in the trash. Reduce e-waste by getting the most use out of all purchased electronics before proper disposal. Make sure you drop your e-waste off with a responsible recycling business. Make do with the electronics you have by refusing to purchase more unless the old ones are irreparable. E-Waste is scarier than you think. Why not do everything you can to reduce it?

Sources:

Greenpeace

LiveStrong

Portions of this article were previously published by this author on a now closed Yahoo property.