20 May 2016
What price are we paying for our hunger for the latest updates when it comes to our tech gadgets? From mercury, lead and lithium, to cadmium, barium and polybrominated flame retardants, there’s a worrying array of toxic components contained within the inevitable electronic waste created by our ‘out with the old and in with the new’ desire for the very latest technology. The possible health effects of these toxins range from birth defects, brain, liver and kidney damage to problems with the nervous system, reproduction and beyond.
“Having more and newer things each year has become not just something we want but something we need. The idea of more, of ever increasing wealth, has become the centre of our identity and security, and we are as caught up by it as the addict by his drugs.” Paul Wachtel
For example, when computer monitors are burned, they create cancer-producing dioxins which are released into the air we breathe. And if electronics are discarded in landfill, these toxins can potentially leach into groundwater, adversely affecting local resources. Studies have shown that people living in e-waste recycling towns, or working in e-waste recycling jobs have been found to have greater DNA damage than those living in control towns.
“Globally, an estimated 50 million tons of e-waste is produced annually.”
Alongside the responsible recycling of our technology products, a possible answer to the e-waste crisis has to begin with prevention at the manufacturing source, by employing waste minimisation techniques and sustainable product design, therefore reducing the e-waste that is able to be created by consumers. So ideas to employ should include creating electronic components and peripherals made from biodegradable material, looking at green packaging options, and a rethinking of the design of a product (flat screen computers for example).
The importance of responsible computer recycling has never been more vital, if you want to play your part in reducing potentially health-harming e-waste, as well as keeping your data secure. So if your company is one that is committed to the ethical recycling of its obsolete computers and technology products, make sure secure and environmentally friendly computer recycling that adheres to proper recycling regulations is part of your consideration. It’s also important to be aware that companies are now legally obliged to safely dispose of potentially sensitive information in accordance with current security laws and the Data Protection Act of 1998. Be sure only to use a computer recycling company that operates in accordance with, and preferably exceeds all government guidelines such as the WEEE Directive and the Data Protection Act.