The growth caused by the demand of manufacturing of new electronics will result in a 33 percent increase in e-waste globally between 2012 and 2017, revealed a recent research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology on behalf of United Nations.
Electronic equipment and gadgets are the fastest growing waste stream and dealing with e-waste is one of the most persistent environmental problems of the 21st century.
According to BCC Research, consumers purchased 238.5 million TVs, 444.4 million computers and tablets and 1.75 billion mobile phones in 2012 worldwide.
These items are mostly rejected within three years of purchase, and this is driving the global growth in e-waste by some eight percent a year.
In general, 80 percent of unwanted electronics are disposed of in an improper way.
Contents in e-waste such as lead, mercury and cadmium, are hazardous and can release dangerous toxins into our air and water when burned or deposited in landfills improperly. Throwing away metal components, such as the copper, gold, silver and palladium in cell phones and other electronics, leads to needless mining for new metals, reports, Natural Resources Defense Council.
E-waste is either cast-off or exported to nations, where open-air burning and acid baths are used to regain precious metals and other elements, reports, Maureen O’Donnell, EHS Journal.
The lack of appropriate control in such countries has led to prominent lead levels in children and heavy metals pollution of soil and water. As a result, world is facing a growing environmental calamity, she added.
Many nations have passed laws to clasp manufacturers responsible for the e-waste created by their products. The European Union has initiated Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive, which ask manufacturers to call back their products for recycling and restricts European countries from exporting or importing e-waste. Japan and China also have passed similar laws.
The U.S. government has yet to make any resolutions, but the Electronics Takeback Coalition reports that 21 U.S. states have adapted their own take back laws with other states considering similar legislation.
Meanwhile, environmentalists have been demanding Congress to consider similar legislation at the national level, as Americans stands on top in generating e-waste.
Additionally, many manufacturers are approving voluntary e-waste recycling certification standards.
One is the e-Stewards program, which helps to find out how to dispose of old-fashioned electronics and follows high standards of environmental responsibility and worker protection.
Another program, R2 Certification, provided by SERI, is supported by manufacturers, including DirecTV and Microsoft.
Consumers can choose any manufacturer who implements any of these recycling methods through participation in one such program.