Electronic Waste or E-Waste : The Worst Of The Worst
Electronic Waste has a huge impact on waste management! Why is that? Well for starter almost 80% of E-Waste is actually legit spare parts or even working devices that could be reused by someone. The appliances that we simply throw away could be of a big help to someone else. A wise man once said: One mans trash is another man's treasure.
What do we classify as E-waste?
e-Waste Definition: E-Waste for short – or Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) - is the term used to describe old, end-of-life or discarded appliances using electricity. It includes computers, consumer electronics, fridges etc which have been disposed of by their original users.
Every electronic device we use and decide that we need no more and throw away in the bin. Old cassette players, DVD's, that Pentium II, etc. But not only those, washing machines, fridges, toasters, air conditioners, heaters, electric radiators and all those appliances that work with electricity actually.
The Worst of the Worst From E-waste
Our technological advance pushes us further and further. Every year we have new PCs new phones and so on. We strive for the better or just our ego is leading us to not so meaningful shopping sprees each year. Take out your phone and ask yourself, for how long have you been using this exact device. Not much right and where is your previous phone? I hope it is being recycled somewhere properly...
When it comes to E-waste a large percent of it is gadgets just like this: cameras, mobile phones and so on. Of course, we are replacing our fridges with bigger ones every once and a while and our air conditioner for ones that are more effective. However, we make those purchases, maybe once per year or even three to four years. And with smartphones and other gadgets, we do our shopping every year, even twice per year. The fast speed with which this industry is growing is pushing our demanding even further and sooner or later it will just be impossible to meet that demand.
The problem is not only in your phone
With those small gadgets we throw away, the impact it does on the environment is way bigger. You are probably thinking now, “How come, it is only a phone, not a big fridge or my cooker?!”. Well, Yes, but it is all about the kinds of materials that you are throwing away not only the size. And here comes the other big problem with electronic wastes.
First of all, you are disposing of a battery, and that has its own requirements. Second, there are a lot of minerals in that piece of technology that could be easily extracted and used for the making of a better device. Let's observe what are we actually disposing of when we are throwing electronics in our rubbish.
Minerals in Electronic Waste
In order to think twice before kicking out that iPhone 6, we are about to give you some more information on what are you actually putting in the rubbish. List of Minerals:
Cassiterite – Primary source of tin. Tin is used to create transparent circuits for your device's display.
Bauxite – Source of gallium, used for the making of backlight LEDs.
Chalcopyrite – Source of copper. Copper is the metal used most commonly in electronics because of its great stats in conducting electricity and heat.
Tetrahedrite – Source of silver. Silver is used mostly for making the paths on circuit boards. It has a high conduciveness of electricity and is rust resistant.
Arsenopyrite – Source of arsenic. The arsenic is used in the making of power amplifiers.
Tantalite – Source of Tantalum, used in the making of volume controls, power regulators, and sound quality filters.
Wolframite – Source of tungsten, used to obtain heat from processors and power supplies.
Spodumene – Source of lithium used for making the cathodes of Ion – batteries.
Graphite – Used for Ion – batteries anodes.
Bastnaesite – Source of element used for the making of magnets for speakers, mics and etc.
A lot of those minerals may have been obtained in areas where the population is actually given no other chance than to work in mines, digging for valuable minerals for the electronics industry. Minerals that have been obtained in such conditions are also called "conflict minerals" because military conflicts are sparked between the government and freedom fighter amongst the population. Another common name is "blood minerals", because of the lives lost during mining under harsh conditions. Under the sun and under the ground, without even enough fresh water around, at gunpoint!
Also pure gold, white gold, and platinum are used on the regular basis for connection among circuits and mainly processor connections, almost every high-profile connection point is being made with gold or platinum. The reason is the fact that they can't get corroded and electricity is literally flying through them. So think twice and recycle your electronics, please!
Infographic on Minerals we Throw in the Rubbish with E-Waste
Now that you know what are you throwing away
Even if you are one of those persons that think that recycling is for activist and those “hippie guys” you can't just throw a piece of gold in the rubbish!
Not recycling electronic waste is the worst thing you can do. It is a three in one kind of deal. For once you are throwing a piece of tech that could be useful to another person, second you are putting materials that will simply not dissolve normally and will poison the environment and third the minerals inside will never be used in other appliances.
Let us be straight with ourselves and say that those kind of minerals are not easy to find in nature and will disappear one day. Let's hope that by this point, humanity would have some other technology to replace ours.
One other fact! A lot of those minerals are coming from mines in countries where warlords are making innocent people work in most harsh conditions. Often at gunpoint!
See more on that here. A pretty good idea from Intel integrated into their “CF” (conflict free) project.
So, in essence, you will throw in the landfill something that may have taken lives just to be in your hands.
Please, when it is time for you to say goodbye to your old appliance or technology. Do that correctly. Follow the regulations and leave your devices at approved recycling centers.