Isaac Newton proposed the 3 laws of motion, the third one being “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” He may not have thought too far outside the realm of physics then, but regardless of what our actions are, the consequences that follow are inevitable.
In our economy, producers are concerned about meeting the demands of consumers, which currently are focused on electronics and electrical devices. With consumer electronics, the advantages are highly appreciated and cons are easily forgotten. Gadgets like cell phones, computers, printers and other devices have become an indispensable part of our lives. Using these gadgets is not the question here but, the adverse effects they can have on the environment and its residents, due to improper disposal is what should be discussed. It is ironic that we find ourselves in this position where we are striving to earn a living for a better future by destroying the environment without which there is no future? A BBC Panorama program says that every year 20 to 50 million tons of e-waste is generated worldwide. This accounts for more than 5 per cent of the municipal solid waste stream.
The problem of dumping e-waste emerged in India in the 1990s, the decade of I.T. revolution. Although nearly 100% of e-waste is recyclable, the current recycling rate is not promising. As per a research paper published in the International Journal of Engineering Research and General Science, the total amount of e-waste generated annually in India from the year 2018 to 2020 is expected to be 313001.5 Metric Tonnes – 366705 Metric Tonnes.
Electronics and electrical devices are expected to make our lives easier, but we fail to see that the inappropriate disposal of an electrical device could bring about several negative health impacts such as intellectual impairment in children, and serious damages to human reproductive systems, the nervous system and blood. Further, we are poisoning the earth and the air with toxic metals and chemicals such as mercury, cadmium and beryllium can leach into the water supply and air, causing kidney and liver damage and impaired mental development. These toxins have carcinogenic effects and are already being proven to exist.
For instance, In a study published on May 31, 2011, in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters, researchers took air samples from Taizhou of Zhejiang province in China – one of the largest dismantling areas in the country. They use 60,000 people to dismantle over two million tons of e-waste annually and researchers found that the e-waste pollution in the air that these workers breathe in constantly, cause inflammation and stress that lead to heart disease, DNA damage, and possibly, even cancer.
It is not only the health hazards and the environmental pollution that are to be noted, but, that we generate so much of e-waste actually means that some recyclable materials too are thrown away. Plastics and metals are being lost due to mindless disposals. Therefore, it is necessary to be aware of the materials that can be used again, so that in turn helps in bringing down production cost of several gadgets.
Even though there have been significant improvements in the field of e-waste management, with one them being the introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), we as individuals can put in effort to improve the whole scenario. Start with spreading the news about e-waste, and the damages caused. When you want to discard any of your electronic goods, take them to your nearest e-waste recycling centre.
Thanks to Vyshnavi Vipin for her contribution towards this post.