I grew up in a small town in Connecticut that was surrounded by deep forests, lakes, and parks. Every house had large sums of land, and woodlands that looked infinite for such a small town. The most common activity my friends and I did was hike and go long walks on the various windy roads Connecticut provided. I will never forget, however, a certain time my friend and I went on a walk by our houses and saw a very strange sight. Someone had left a TV with a DVR and a remote on the side of the road. The strangest thing of all was that it somehow looked as if it belonged there, with nature. We are constantly using mother nature as a sink for waste for products that we use for a short period of time, in which in turn have long term environmental and health effects.
A statistic from the United Nations Environmental Program states that “Roughly 40 million metric tons of electronic waste (e-waste) are produced globally each year”(McAllister). Communities are being directly affected by this and seeing health issues arise. Most, if not all, electronics are made up of lead and toxic metals, so when we are not properly disposing of them, these toxic elements can easily seep into our soils and waters and become apart of natural cycles such as the water cycle and carbon cycle. Guiyu is a city in southeast China that has one of the largest e-waste sites and the effects are seen in the people. It is reported that residents showed “substantial digestive, neurological, respiratory, and bone problems” and “80 percent of Guiyu’s children experience respiratory ailments, and are especially at risk of lead poisoning”. Guiyu is only one of many cities that this is prominent in.
I believe the main issue is that people are not being informed on proper recycling of e-waste. I can see this with the people that surround me, my roommates throw out their phones and electronics because it’s “a hassle to recycle them” or “[they] don’t know how. However, it pains me that so much of the plastics and metals we are using can be reused. Why extract for natural resources and make more plastic when you can reuse? Recycling industries exist right here in our country, and might even be down the street from where you live. However, it’s easy for people to just throw them out or leave it on the side of the road. An awareness needs to rise and the resources we have and don’t know about need to reach communities, and maybe in an incentive fashion since incentives is usually how we get people in our society to do something. There are groups of people that are constantly trying to bring awareness of what we should be doing different. Unfortunately, these groups are not having an impact. This is when Globalization can have a positive effect. We have all the tools to reach audiences, the only issue is that the industries that are leading the environmental degradation have the most impact on societies. So, we need to get them on board first to make a substantial difference, along with many other factors.
McAllister, Lucy. “The Human and Environmental Effects of E-Waste.” Population Reference Bureau , University of Colorado’s Population Center’s,
I really liked your story about finding a TV in the middle of the woods. Someone must have went through a lot of effort to leave it there, and it just goes to show how poorly some people regard our environment. Unfortunately our society over uses natural sinks and overwhelms natural cycles which, as you mentioned, can be detrimental to human health. I like how you included the figures on all the e-waste we produce as well as the testimonials about the health of the people in Guiyu as a direct result of those waste sites. In addition to raising awareness about the importance of recycling electronics and providing incentives we could also focus on and invest in scientific research regarding the development of more sustainable packaging and electronic devices that need less heavy metals and resources to produce.
What an interesting and relevant post! I’m sorry that someone dumped the tv there, but I love that it prompted you to do an investigation of e-waste. Well done.