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The growing e-waste mountain in the world

The growing e-waste mountain in the world

The growing e-waste mountain in the world

If you have at least one old electronic device in your drawer, you are not alone, as are billions of people around the world.

A few decades ago, the world was in a technological “innovation or die” race. The result is a long list of useful and beautiful products. However, the pace of innovation is so fast that technological devices are constantly being improved and creating mountains of e-waste.

“The pace of development is so fast that the technology becomes obsolete in a short period of time, which makes it worse. Now people change computers every three or four years, phones only every one or two years,” said the CEO of Basel Action . Jim package. Network, an e-waste regulator based in Seattle. – This mountain is rising.

March 2017. Pennsylvania-based Westmoreland cleans streets and recycles e-waste.  Photo: AP

March 2017. Pennsylvania-based Westmoreland cleans streets and recycles e-waste. See: AP

The United Nations data for 2020, published in 2019, shows that 53.6 million tons of e-waste is generated worldwide, but only 17.4% is recycled. This waste is mainly transported to developing countries and pollutes these countries. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that “undetermined quantities of used electronics are shipped from the United States and developed countries to developing countries, which cannot refuse to import or properly dispose of these items.”

Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that disposing of e-waste can have various “adverse health effects in children,” including changes in lung function, DNA damage and an increased risk of certain chronic diseases such as cancer. .

In addition, statistics from the World Health Organization show that more than 18 million children and young people are currently “actively involved” in the e-waste industry, but most come into direct contact with landfill sites. “Children and young people are kept busy sifting through mountains of e-waste in search of valuable materials such as copper and gold because their little hands are more dexterous than adults’,” WHO said.

Regulatory Involvement

The growing environmental crisis of e-waste is drawing the attention of many governments around the world. The European Union passed a new law last month requiring all phones and electronic devices to use standard chargers.

Three US lawmakers, including Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, have made similar demands. In a letter to the US Department of Commerce, the group said the new EU policy could “significantly reduce e-waste and alleviate the fatigue of consumers cluttering their drawers with confusing chargers.” The group called for regulation of large companies to prevent further e-waste generation in the future.

However, experts say that the problem of controlling e-waste is still scattered or only at the conceptual level. In the meantime, digital device businesses and consumers may need to stay proactive and find better ways to dispose of old electronics in the future.

What should consumers and businesses do?

As an engineer in the information technology department of a multinational company, Corey Dehmi learned how to use old computers. Now, as CEO of Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI), he is trying to solve the e-waste problems by strengthening collaboration between government, the private sector and consumers.

“E-waste is created because the product isn’t planned throughout its lifespan. Therefore, when the product is launched, every company has to think about how it will be disposed of once it’s on the market. It won’t be used,” he said.

In order to ensure professional disposal, SERI currently has a separate e-waste recycling standard. The organization regularly organizes events to raise business and public awareness of e-waste and urges companies and governments to control product development. Electronic products are more durable.

Some companies are beginning to take initiatives to help repair old equipment. Since the beginning of the year, Apple and Samsung have been offering parts that users can use to repair their smartphones themselves. Google could do the same for Pixel phones later this year.

The EPA believes every consumer can change the way they think about electronics, the way they think about cars: don’t throw them away and buy new cars, fix them while they’re still in use.

Bao Lam (Consequences CNN)

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