Electronic Waste Management

Jul 20th, 2010 | By | Category: Environmental Management

In the 1970s, Gordon E. Moore theorized that computer processing power doubles about every 18 months, especially relative to cost or size. His theory, known as Moore’s Law, has proved largely true. Thinner, sleeker, and faster computers are regularly produced and sold as replacements for their larger, slower predecessors. While this is good news for the both the consumer and the manufacturer it results in an ever increasing source of electronic garbage.

And certainly this phenomenon is not limited to computers. Most consumer electronics and even unsophisticated household appliances are built with internal processors which are also doomed to eventual obsolescence. Each day, various types of consumer electronics are constantly being upgraded or completely scrapped in favor of technological advancements. In the process, scores of old VCRs, Walkman cassette decks and bulky video cameras become what is known as “e-waste” or electronic waste.

Hazards of Electronic Waste

Certain e-waste items are particularly harmful. For instance, CRT-based computer and television monitors contain on average four to eight pounds of lead, a highly toxic heavy metal. Unfortunately, improper disposal of e-waste creates a significant burden on landfills because toxic substances can leach into the soil and groundwater. Absent recycling, the problem could escalate.

The total annual global volume of e-waste is expected to reach about 40 million metric tons. This amount is likely to increase because e-waste is growing at three times the rate of other municipal waste. Although e-waste accounts for only one to four percent of municipal waste, it may be responsible for as much as 70 percent of the heavy metals in landfills, including 40 percent of all lead. As individuals and corporations alike become more conscious of the increasingly unfortunate effects of this type of ecological pollution the question of how to properly handle e-waste becomes an important one. Where in the past consumers were happy to bury and forget all kinds of waste now they are concerned with the ultimate effects of such behavior.

Regulating Electronic Waste

Some governments are getting involved in the problem by passing laws or advocating changes in the waste management policies of the private sector. Government officials feel it is important that not just companies, but consumers are made aware of the issue, with many pressing for educational efforts geared at educating the general public about the dangers of ignoring and the potential benefits of recycling e-waste. Many corporations and waste management companies also feel it’s of the utmost importance that the average consumer understands which electronics need special care when it comes time to dispose or recycle them, pointing out that even though large companies do produce a large amount of e-waste the bulk comes from individuals.

One solution is that e-waste should not be considered waste. It is a resource. Useful materials such as glass, copper, aluminum, plastic and other components can often be extracted and reused. Some manufacturers have even referred to e-waste as a valuable source of materials. Many landfills and waste processing plants have instituted new procedures to assure that the valuable materials found in e-waste are not accidentally buried and forgotten. Waste management services in Australia, Asia, Europe and North America have begun concerted efforts to capture these precious resources rather than let them be discarded forever. Some companies around the globe even have made a business model based on the excavation of disused landfills. Recycling valuable materials form years gone by.

With an increasing array of environmentally-friendly options now available, people should consider recycling or donating their old electronic devices. With either choice, we can reduce the amount of e-waste and actually put our old items to good use.

About The Author

William Wright writes articles for Veolia Environmental Services, http://www.veoliaes.com.au/industrial-services/waste-management/ a provider of effective and sustainable waste management in Australia, http://www.veoliaes.com.au/commercial-services/waste-collection-and-recycling with over 30 years experience in waste services in New South Wales. Veolia is an established industry leader on e-waste recycling in Adelaide. Visit http://www.veoliaes.com.au/ for more information.

Photograph: Hard Disk by Ilco, Izmir, Turkey.

Source: www.articlecity.com

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