We are surrounded by many electronic devices in every single moment of our lifes: computers, smartphones, tvs, dryers, microwaves, radios, heaters… We live in a world that drives capitalism, in which buying new things is rewarded abd brings ans joy and even a certain status. But we don’t realize about the negative part of all this: the electronic waste, also called e-waste. Let’s understand the risks of the increasing number of e-waste in the world, and how we can tackle this situacion.
The risk of the electronic waste
The e-waste includes every plastic piece, which take thousands of years to degrade, organic component, that contaminate soils and aquifers, and other technological element which must be treated correctly to avoid environment risks. Environmentalists report the obvious problem that exists in third world countries, to which we send much of the technological waste that is generated in areas such as the EU, Switzerland or USA. This action causes huge mountains of technological garbage that destroy their environment.
At the same time, these mountains of technological garbage create a second risk: children, in countries such as China or India, are forced to manipulate and distinguish plastics between rubbish by smelling or burning it. Of course, this is done wihout any control or safety measure, which undermines the health of the citizens of such countries.
Thrirdly, there is also a problem with the resale of electronic devices, such as chips, which were previously used by first-world citizens. These elements are manipulated and sold again as new, committing security to those who reuse them, and deceiving citizens.
How to solve or lessen the problem
Solving this problem requires the collaboration of society as a whole, businesses and government. The former must adopt a responsible consumer attitude, acquiring only the products that are truly necessary and checking information such as the origin of the product or the ethics used by the seller on the supply chain. At the same time, citizens must consider or think about reusing and recycling what they can to the extent possible.
Companies must be responsible for the waste they create throughout the life cycle of the products they sell, putting the necessary facilities to favor the recycling processes of each product, including reverse logistics research.
Finally, states should facilitate as much as possible the processes of recycling products, subsidizing research and construction projects of recycling plants, cleaning points, and even educate the society around this topic. They also have a duty to regulate the actions of citizens and businesses in a fair and severe manner, even punishing non-compliance and rewarding compliance if necessary.
The future of recycling
On the one hand, the export of waste to other countries should be legalized and, at the same time, the market should be regularized. This is because, even if the shipment of technological waste to third world countries is prohibited, it continues to be done. Therefore, it should be regulated in order to ensure at least certain minimum conditions in this type of operation. This is the only way to eliminate or downplay the entire black market that exists around all of this system.
In this way, greater transparency would be achieved throughout the waste treatment process. Thus, the development of duly prepared enterprises around this green sector or industry would be promoted. At the same time, this would improve the living conditions of workers in this sector and create a new specialized kind of employment.
In addition, the future holds a higher percentage of recycling and use of all technological waste, as such initiatives are being highly funded and driven by governments like the European Union. In fact, the extraction of raw materials that can be recovered and used will become an important axis for many private companies when it comes to reducing costs. It could happen that the waste of one company could be, for example, the entry of materials from another company (circular economies). In Sweden, for example, garbage is burned for electricity, and this measure has been so successful that they even buy the trash from their Norwegian neighbors.
Surely, and given the EU’s demands to comply with the recycling of urban waste, measures will surely be established, as they also exist in Sweden (a small amount of money is collected and returned for each can andbottle) to boost recycling among citizens.