E-waste or electronic waste refers to all forms of electrical and electronic equipments that have entered the waste stream. Electronic equipment could cover items such as televisions, mobile phones, computers, and other white goods such as fridges, dryers, and washing machines among others (Stephenson 67). Other household items that have an electronic connection such as toasters, kettles, and gas cookers among are considered electronic waste. When these equipments are no longer useful and are discarded, they are categorized as electronic waste. In case electronic waste is not properly managed, e-waste poses dangerous environmental and health effects to human beings. This is because unlike other types of wastes, e-waste is not biodegradable and thus the method of disposal of these electronic devices is dangerous. With the advancement of technology, e-waste is becoming a threat to the environment because of their disposal. People are upgrading to the new and improved devices without having efficient methods of recycling the former equipment. The electronic industry is among the fastest growing and thus with the wrong methods of disposing old devices, the environment is at stake. This paper analyses the impact of e-waste on the environment.
Impact on the environment
Statistics indicate that people dispose electronic devices such as phones and computers every two years with the emergence of improved technologies (Luther 89). The disposal of these electronic devices has adverse effects on the environment. One of the most popular methods of disposing electronic devices involves digging a large pit, often referred to as a landfill and dumping the waste there. The waste is then buried and it can remain in the ground for as long as possible. However, with time the waste starts to seep and release toxic materials into the land. These toxic substances render the land unusable for the purposes of farming and thus people cannot grow crops. The toxic effluents may also find their way into the rivers thus contaminating waters that people and animals use for their consumption. The toxic substances also contaminate the animals that live in the water and the plants that grow in the water. Thus, e-waste greatly affects the ecosystem both on land and in water.
E-waste often vaporizes into the air releasing toxic substances to the environment. These vapors pollute the environment where people live and they often cause diseases including poisoning of the human system with metal. The release of these harmful substances causes dangers to animals of the air and the environment. Among the substances released by e-waste include lead, arsenic, mercury, beryllium, cadmium, and antimony (Napoleon and Sinclair 99). These substances are extremely dangerous because once released to the environment, they have long life spans. For instance, once these substances get into the soil, they affect it seriously such that plants cannot survive in that kind of ground.
Those wastes that do not go to landfills end up in incinerators. In the incinerators, the e-waste is burnt into ashes and ends up releasing toxic substances to the environment. The effect of the fumes released to the air cause intense impact on the environment. The fumes may get clogged into the leaves of plants and trees causing retardation in the growth of trees. In the end, since trees attract rain, it becomes impossible to get the rain leading to a dry environment. Additionally, the tree cover in the environment reduces because most of the trees die from contamination in the fumes.
The release of harmful fumes in the environment during incineration also causes global warming, which is one of the most adverse effects in the environment. Global warming causes the temperatures of the earth to rise and this affects the environment. The fumes released mostly contain carbon dioxide gases and when combined with higher temperatures, they affect the ecosystem. Currently, because of the large amounts of these gases released to the environment, the forest cover has reduced and certain ecosystems such as mangroves are becoming extinct (Alcorn et al. 111).
When electronic devices become extinct in most developed countries, they dump them or sell them to developing countries. These wastes affect the environment of these other countries because their useful life is usually low. The environmental impact moves from one country to the other spreading the dangers it poses. The ecosystem of these countries is also affected after people dump the e-waste into landfills and burn them in incinerators. The wastes affect the environment and thus, it becomes difficult for human beings to dwell in the surrounding area. When people abandon a certain area, it becomes unproductive and affects the ecosystem because the environment is destroyed.
Human beings are also part of the environment and e-waste affects their health in various adverse ways. Among the ways that e-waste affects human health include damages to the central nervous system that causes retardation, seizures, hypertension, damages to the liver and kidneys (Hester and Harrison 34). Additionally, the toxic fumes released to the air limit the amount of oxygen in the environment and often causes breathing problems for people constantly exposed to them. The toxic substances cause lung cancers with time because of the breathing problems and these diseases are fatal.
Besides the effects on the lungs and kidneys, the toxic substances of e-waste lead to child development problems to children in their upbringing. Most children love to play around dumpsites that may be having e-waste and without knowing it they expose themselves to dangerous health risks. Children may come into contact with metals such as lead and mercury, which poison the human system once absorbed. These substances affect the growth and development of children at their young age.
Some people dispose e-waste into open pits and leave them unburied. This waste becomes an eyesore to the environment because with time the waste scatters around an area posing great risks to the environment and the people around. The waste affects the neighboring lands when it releases harmful effluents to the soils. Thus, the land becomes unproductive and cannot grow plants. Even though sometimes crops can grow in land where e-waste has been dumped, the crops may be poisonous for the consumption of human beings and also for animals. E-waste affects the waters such that human beings may not be able to use it even for swimming purposes. When the effluents enter into the water, they mix with water to form chemicals that affect the skin if used for bathing (Luther 77). Plants that survive in water die and so do sea animals because of contamination in the water.
E-waste poses a global challenge and thus effective management of the waste is crucial. Governments and societies need to be responsible in the manner in which they dispose e-waste because of its dangers in the environment. Individuals should reduce their production of e-waste through smart procurement and efficient maintenance of the electronic devices.
Companies producing electronic equipments should be at the forefront in advocating for reuse and recycle of the devices to reduce electronic waste. As part of their social responsibility, these companies need to be environmentally responsible by using the right disposal methods for their electronics. They should outline their environmental responsibilities to the public and send the right message for others to emulate in dealing with e-waste.
In conclusion, e-waste is growing because of the advancing technologies providing new and improved electronic devices with speed. This situation leaves consumers with old equipment that they do not require anymore and people end up disposing them carelessly. Most people dispose e-waste through landfills or incineration causing dangerous effects on the environment. With time, the e-waste seeps to the soil and some finds its way to rivers and seas thus contaminating them. The burnt waste releases toxic fumes to the air, which have serious effects to the environment. These wastes also affect the health of humans by damaging the lungs, kidneys, and brain among other areas. Therefore, every individual should take the onus to manage e-waste through reusing, recycling, and reducing.
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