I have never really thought about electronic waste until this topic was discussed in class. Even with cell phones, laptops, printers, etc being used everyday in large quantities, nobody really thinks about where all of this ends up when we need to get rid of it all. The amount of electronic waste is absolutely ridiculous. Over 20 million tons of electronic waste is produced every year and when these electronics end up in landfills, their toxic materials find their way into soil and water. Toxic materials such as arsenic, lead, mercury, and polybrominated flame retardants are found in cell phones and other devices. Despite the harmful effects of these toxins on the environment and the people handling them, nearly 60% of e-waste ends up in landfills and in the developing world.
Most of our e waste ends up being sent to Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan. Here, it is dumped into places where inexperienced workers handle the waste in unsafe ways.
It is silly that there are millions of people who need cell phones and are forced to get by without them. Meanwhile, the average American cell phone user holds on to the same phone for only 18 months on average. Part of the solution would be to spend more time fixing the electronics that we already have instead of getting rid of them. That way, we could provide more jobs to people willing to fix the electronics, and we do not waste as much. Another part of the solution would be to work on opening up more recyclers that can handle the waste properly and safely. This is a serious problem, and with the population and use of electronics expected to increase, it is important to get this situation under control and manageable.