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The Environmental Impacts of E-Waste

Blog Post
January 13, 2023

E-waste is a problem all over the world—and as you’ll see, a problem from which no one is completely free.

Think about all the cell phones you’ve owned in your lifetime or every computer you’ve ever used for work: Do you know where they are now? Chances are high that you don’t. But you may be surprised to hear they probably weren’t destroyed properly once you were finished with them… And even more surprised by what’s being done now to help remedy the situation.

Read on for more about e-waste, its effects on the world and our health, and what can be done about it.

What Is E-Waste?

What is electronic waste? As defined by the United Nations (UN), electronic waste (e-waste or e-scrap) is any “discarded product with a battery or plug” that contains “toxic and hazardous substances” and poses a severe risk to the environment.

E-waste commonly includes:

  • Mobile phones
  • Tablets and Laptops
  • Personal & Office Computers
  • Macs
  • Televisions
  • Plugs, cables, etc.

Also according to the UN, every person on Earth produces upwards of 17 pounds (7.6 kilograms) of e-waste in a year, on average—and only properly dispose of about 17%. That’s around $57 billion in gold, silver, platinum, and other materials, all wasted because we don’t prioritize this newer form of pollution.

How E-Waste Impacts the Environment and Our Health

E-waste is not organic and it’s not biodegradable. Burn pits and acid baths release toxic materials at the same time they’re being used to recover more valuable elements from e-waste. The dangerous elements of e-waste can also find their way into the landfill, and from there into our water and food.

In Our Soil

70% of toxic waste in landfills comes from e-waste, and some landfills are even banning electronics from drop-off altogether. By 2030 the global volume of e-waste will be 67 million tons a year, which is double what it was in 2014.

In Our Air

Burn pits and other improper dispositions of e-waste create air pollution when electronics are shredded, melted, or burned—and the chemicals they release can travel thousands of miles through the air, causing chronic disease and respiratory issues.

In Our Water

Plants depend on three things: Air, soil nutrients, and water. So when minerals, metals, and chemicals pollute the air, soil, and water like this, it filters into crops—which affects all agriculture, as it makes its way into our livestock and food supply.

In Our Food

Herd animals tend to be herbivores, which means they eat all that contaminated food and drink the water that e-waste infiltrates while inhaling the air that could make them sick.

In Our Bodies

These toxins can affect your brain, heart, liver, and kidneys. They may also do damage to your reproductive system. Whether vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore, humanity isn’t particularly safe from the effects of e-waste as it’s in our water and the air we breathe. But that’s not the end of the story.

What Can Be Done to Reduce E-Waste’s Impact

There is some good news here. There are solutions. Some of them are radical, some more commonsense, but they all have the goal of reducing or removing the threat e-waste presents. Today we’re talking about IT Asset Disposition (ITAD), one such solution.

ITAD—or sometimes also called ITAM, for “IT Asset Management”—refers to the proper handling and disposal of used electronics and their many harmful byproducts. ITAD hardware solutions are any business that can help you document, collect and dispose of your used and broken electronics in a way that’s safe for all of us.

What to Look for in an ITAD Provider

The ITAD provider you want will document their work, maybe even letting you track your assets as they move through the process of recycling, rendering, and/or destroying your electronics. This process may involve disassembly, cleaning, and shredding where possible. Companies that recycle e-waste should follow strict health and safety rules and use environmentally friendly techniques.

Getting started with ITAD is simple, and a quality ITAD provider will make sure any data left on devices is cleansed before destroying, recycling, or remarketing them. Once the process is done, your company will be provided with reporting and conduct billing.

Interested in learning more about how Teksetra can help with e-waste management? Contact us! We’ll be glad to answer any questions you may have.

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