Almost all electronic products – computers, televisions, cell phones, printers, and so forth. Commonly called “e waste”, these items contain hazardous materials like lead, mercury, phosphorous, antimony and polychlorinated biphenyls, otherwise known as pcb’s. If allowed to seep into groundwater, they can cause serious pollution hazards. E waste is also a major health risk to those exposed to its toxic elemets.
While many industrial nations prohibit the shipping of hazardous e waste, the United States does not. As such, more than 25% of our e waste ends up in places like Agbogbloshie, an e waste dump near Accra, Ghana where workers “recycle” them by smashing them with rocks to get at the component parts. Workers as young as 13, who are constantly exposed to sharp metal and glass- in addition to the various toxins mentioned above!
The full length movie Terra Blight, produced by graduates of the University of Florida and originally released in 2012, provides an insight into what happens to electronics that are not properly recycled. It will be featured at the Maker Faire in Rome on October 3rd (good news: you can watch it, in its entirety, at the bottom of this article!).
Electronics are embedded in our daily lives and improve our quality of life in important ways. This blog post is being typed on a computer and shared with you via a digital link to the internet. But we need to be aware of the harm that can be done to people and our environment if discarded electronics are not handled properly.