Right now, someone has opened the shopping site and saw the ad for the latest LG fridge, liked it, and bought it. But wait what about the old fridge? Obviously, you would discard it. After all, nobody wants a no more working fridge that can’t even keep your veggies fresh. But the story of your old fridge doesn’t end here. Have you ever wondered what would happen to it after disposing of and does its influence on your life after disposing of really end here or there is more to it?
These questions are for every kind of electronic device which we throw off like fast fashion. Whether they are still useable or not or they are used only for few days, few months, or a few years, all of this hardly matters. In the end of everybody wants to have a taste of the latest model of electronics. But while we buy to satisfy our desire to try new features, we dispose of the “not really outdated” electronic items and barely care what influence it will have on our use as well our environment.
Millions on electronics
Just like fast fashion the manufacturers today produce electronic products which are only reliable for just a few years knowing that the consumers would surely buy the new and latest products they bring annually or semi-annually.
Using this mentality of consumers Asian countries like China, South Korea, and Japan and non-Asian countries like the U.S., Germany annually manufacture tones to metric tones of these electronic items especially consumer electronics, and billions to trillions of American Dollars are spent annually especially by top developed countries like U.S., France, China, Germany and developing countries like Taiwan and India. The number just keeps on multiplying each year for each country.
Millions of Electronics
While surely the workers of these companies earn huge income from it and we customers get new products but the cost of this rapid cycle of buy-dispose-buy is huge and is tough to pay.
Discarded electronics wastes or e-wastes are non-biodegradable and since generated in large amounts their piles can be equal to hundreds or thousands of skyscrapers. There are rules and regulations provided by governments in developed countries to manage e-waste but the definition for the classification of the parts based on their reusability, scrap worth and harmfulness are too complex that many of them are mistakenly mixed with others. A lot of time these wastes are not regulated properly and undergo processes that either shouldn’t go directly or shouldn’t go at all.
Most of them end up being in landfills or transported to poor developing countries where there is little to no regulation to import e-waste. China is the second most generator of e-waste and even though they have prohibited the entry of e-waste from other countries, their poor regulation somehow makes them end up with other country’s e-waste. Many of them are burnt to immediately get rid of but actually end up creating toxic fumes from it.
Materials of electronics
e-wastes are made up of materials that are broadly classified as plastics and metals.
As we know plastics are non-biodegradable which means they cannot be decomposed naturally as they are not part of nature. The plastics in landfills are left attended and due to weather’s constant impact, the micro- pieces of plastics are generated from the larger chunks of plastics and get mixed with the surrounding soil, biodegradable garbage, waste foods, and may enter sewage. This led to accidental consumption of plastics by organisms which doesn’t get digested and keeps accumulating in their digestive systems and gradually enter the food chains of our ecosystems. Plastics are not only toxic in nature but their presence inside the body can interrupt the life-supporting physiological processes while their accumulation can create a blockage to bowel movements.
The metals of e-waste are broadly categorized as common metals and rare metals. Both of them need to be extracted from the earth before being used and for that huge sum of capital, water and energy are used. Rare metals are found only in few places and their rarity lures exploitation of labor and resources and corruption. Many of these rare metals such as lead and phosphors are harmful to humans as well as the environment. While other rare metals like gold, silver, and lithium and common metals like aluminum and copper can be separated and sold they many of them end up in the trash due to ignorance.
Components of Electronics
Many components of devices are such as plugs, motherboards, displays, camera lenses, RAM, etc., can be separated and reused but like metals and plastics, they get discarded ignorantly.
Yes, scientists and people are trying to find methods to deal with e-waste and create products that are more sustainable and eco-friendly but the effort is of no worth until and unless we ought to make actually make a change. Until and unless we reach the day when we can actually deal with our digital wastes, we aren’t really living the era of digitization.