Living in the digital age sure has its perks. With just a few taps on a screen, practically anything can appear at your doorstep within hours, whether it be a large iced coffee from the cafe up the street, that toilet paper you forgot to buy at the store earlier, or a handyman to hang the new art you ordered online two days ago that just arrived. You can access all the information in the world with your fingertips while a circular robot cleans your floors and Netflix checks in to make sure you’re still watching Season 4 of Queer Eye.
So, what happens to your busted iPhones and corroded batteries once they’ve given you all they can, and you discard them in the trash like anything else deemed as junk? It becomes “e-waste,” no longer useful in its current state, but usually very reusable and recyclable. Dina Montes, the NYC Dept of Sanitation Press Secretary, defines “e-waste”as discarded electronics that, when improperly disposed, have the potential of harming our ecosystem.
According to the World Economic Forum, more than 48 millions tons of e-waste are produced every year. Just the US alone can claim 6.9 million tons of that, a number that should shock everyone considering how easy it should be to recycle these items.
But more often than not, these electronics aren’trecycled and instead, end up in landfills where toxins such as lead, mercury, and cadmium wind up leaking into the soil and into our water. In fact, e-waste makes up 70% of America’s overall toxic waste. Researchers have now linked e-waste to inflammation, DNA damage, and even cancer. In short, we’ve got to find a solution — and fast.
Here are a few things you can do to ensure you aren’t directly feeding into this epic e-waste problem:
1) Check to see if your city’s sanitation department is E-Steward certified,and if so, look up when the department has e-waste recycling events and/or pick-up.
2) If your city isn’t E-Steward certified, use the “find a recycler” tool to locate a spot you can safely discard your e-waste.
3) Look up the closest Staples which allows for easy electronics recycling! Check out this list first to make sure your junk is accepted.
4) If an item is leaking, pack it in a box along with some newspaper or towels to soak up any excess fluid before discarding.
5) Appliances, batteries, and light bulbs aren’t usually accepted at general drives, but cities have special drives and locations, so be sure to check where, when, and how you can discard those items.
Recycling e-waste has various environmental and economic benefits. It may take some extra effort on your part to properly recycle your old electronics, but doing so makes a hugedifference. According to the EPA, recycling one million laptops can save the energy equivalent of electricity that can run 3,657 U.S. households for a year. We can also recover 75 lbs of gold, 772 lbs of silver, and 35,274 lbs of copper and 33 lbs of palladium in the process. In 2019, we all share some responsibility for the e-waste epidemic. It’s time we all share the responsibility of doing something about it.