We’ve spoken before about the toxic chemicals used to build the electronics that have become increasingly important in our lives — how items as common as cell phones and computers can include mercury, lead, and other harmful materials in their construction. While we have looked briefly at the risks of ignoring the ewaste problem, we have yet to take a truly in-depth look at the environmental impact of an ever-growing pile of ewaste. So what kind of damage are we looking at, exactly?

From Trash Pile to Groundwater

When PCs, game consoles, cell phones, and other outdated electronics find their way into general-use landfills, they don’t just disappear. The plastic shell of most electronics is not biodegradable, so it is often crushed under the weight of the other trash in the landfill. Once the plastic casing breaks apart, everything inside will begin finding its way downward through the layers of trash until it reaches the ground. As we’ve mentioned, computers contain materials like nickel, lead, mercury, and barium — all known to be deeply dangerous to the health and well-being of people, plants, and animals. Lead concentrations in groundwater or soil have been proven to cause serious physical issues in both adults and children, with children at far greater risk. If you wouldn’t want lead in your drinking water or your house paint, you don’t want to find it building up in the landfill.

Finding Its Way Into the Atmosphere

Alongside the danger of contaminated groundwater and soil, there’s another serious concern of long-term damage — the atmosphere. Some landfills use fire as a way to clear and control the piles of trash before they get too weighty, but even in those landfills that don’t use fire, heat still causes problems. Whether it’s due to exposure to fire or just a sunny day in the midst of summer, the heat of either could release toxic chemicals into the air we breathe or into the upper atmosphere. There they can attach themselves to gathering moisture, and rain their way back to earth… where they will find their way into the soil and groundwater, anyway.

Out of Sight Isn’t Out of Mind

One of the “solutions” to the ewaste problem in the past has been for shady companies, billing themselves as environmentally conscious “ewaste disposal” experts, to simply send tons and tons of electronic waste they receive from well-meaning residential and commercial clients overseas. Meanwhile, the electronics pile up in “electronic graveyards” in less-developed nations, where local residents risk life and limb to melt down or resell the valuable components inside.
This isn’t a solution. It’s a case of “out of sight, out of mind.” The longer this problem is ignored, the bigger these electronic graveyards will continue to grow. The pollution created by the fires used to melt down metals or burn up piles of plastic outer-casings doesn’t just remain localized, and it doesn’t only affect the local population. As these clouds of smoke and toxic chemicals find their way up into the atmosphere and make their way around the world, “out of sight” rapidly turns into “in my backyard.”

How Can We Help?

Electronic waste isn’t ever going to just go away. Without greater commitment to reusing, reducing, and recycling our electronics, the problem and the piles of trash are going to get much worse. How can you help keep the ewaste danger from growing? Through responsible recycling with Electronic Asset Recycling!EARecycling safely and legally recycles your old and outdated electronics, ensuring that they aren’t just finding their way into landfills overseas. We are Greenville locals committed to being a part of the ewaste solution, keeping our city, our beloved state of South Carolina, and our country safe for generations to come. If you’re looking to drop off some residential electronics or need a pickup for a larger commercial recycling project, let us know! You can reach us by phone at (800) 746-1823 or contact us online today!

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