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E- WASTE – A LOOMING PROBLEM

We live in a world, where every moment of our lives are surrounded by Electronic devices. The goods which were once considered as luxuries have now become an inseparable parts of our lives. For example- mobile phones, computers, electricity we cannot even dream of having a life without them. Electronic devices do not live on forever. They do become useless after some time. Hence, they need to be disposed. This is where the problem of managing electronic wastes, or E waste starts.

HOW TO TACKLE E-WASTE ?

E-waste or Electronic Waste, consists of discarded  electronic devices. These wastes include Televisions sets, Computer monitors, Printers, Keyboards, Mobile Phones, Cables, Circuit Boards, Lamps and Clocks. They also include laboratory equipment like Microscopes.

Electronic waste has been a major issue ever since the rapid advancement in technology. The constant upgradation of electronic items increases the disposal of old devices. Population is equally responsible for this setback. This “environment killer” is very difficult to dispose because of the elements it contains – cadmium, lead and nickel. These are some of them which are toxic in nature.

Currently, 70 percent of toxic waste in landfills (also referred to as “toxic time bomb”) is occupied by e-waste. There are over a billion unused computers in the world. Mumbai produces maximum amount of e-waste in India. E-waste is dumped in countries like Africa and India from all over the world. This is mostly due to the prevalence of cheap labor. These numbers are definitely alarming. As, This waste is non-biodegradable and is affecting the Earth more than ever.

HARMFUL EFFECTS OF E-WASTE

A lot of toxic components are present in this type of waste. These can be dangerous to human health. These toxins can affect the brain, heart, liver, kidney and also cause skeletal system damage. In extreme cases, it can also cause birth defects. E-waste, along with humans, also affects water, soil and air.

Since it contains elements like mercury and lead, the soil gets polluted and as result, the groundwater becomes toxic. This groundwater flows to other water sources like ponds, lakes and rivers where animals tend to drink this toxic water which is hazardous to their well-being.

E-waste also affects air quality. Dust particles and toxins are released into the environment. Dioxins is an example of toxins. This causes air pollution and respiratory problems. This pollution can extend to thousands of miles away from the recycling factories.

WAYS TO CONTROL IT

The minimization of e-waste is needed to conserve resources. It helps in reducing the huge amount of energy we produce for making these products. There are many ways one can contribute :

  • Recycling – As of now, only 12.5 percent of total waste is recycled. The rest goes into landfills and incinerators. Recycling process creates new materials. We need disposing and treating of waste materials. It helps in recovering renewable resources which are hard to replenish in nature. For instance, a Computer has many materials – Metals, Glass, Plastic, etc. Out of this, Metal and Plastic is 100 percent recyclable whereas Glass is 99 percent recyclable. We should use old and unused materials. It has additional benefits like decrease in the number of landfills and creation of jobs.
  • Extending the life of electronics – This tech savvy generation is quick to replace their mobile phones everyone year or two only to be updated with the latest flagship model. While this might give them the latest features and software updates, it affects the environment in more than one way. Ask yourself, do you really need that device? Donate or reuse the products, if possible.
  • Buy environment friendly electronics – There are a lot of eco-friendly laptops in the market. Apple’s Macbook and Lenovo’s ThinkPad T480 are good examples. Sustainable electronics consist of products made with minimum toxic chemicals and recyclable parts.
GREEN COMPUTING

A lot of steps have been taken to tackle the degradation of our environment. Green Computing is one of the steps. (Also known as “Green IT”). It is a rising trend to benefit the environment, increase productivity and minimize costs. It is similar to Green Chemistry as it aims to maximize energy efficiency. Also, it reduces the use of toxic materials during the product’s lifetime.

Green IT aims to adopt the following practices :

  • Sustainable Design – It involves designing energy efficient computers, servers, and other devices.
  • Viable use – An individual can contribute to this by changing some of their daily habits – like, using the sleep mode when away from a computer for long time and refurbishing old machine instead of purchasing a new computer. Also, there is a need to make arrangements for safe disposal of electronic devices.
CONCLUSION

There is a need of public awareness. There is a need for positive involvement of manufacturers for advancement in e-waste management. The Government should allow grants and make policies for the management. Health effects related to respiratory, immune and skin can be prevented with proper disposal. The amount of waste is going to double up in the years to come. Hence, necessary steps must be taken to curb the harm E-waste is causing to our environment.

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