WEEE: The current problems and potential disaster
High volumes of e-waste (landfill levels)
As The Telegraph stated in 2011, ‘As space in Britain’s landfills runs out, the race is on to find environmentally friendly alternatives’
They go on to say that ‘In 2007 the Local Government Association reported that in Britain a combined area the size of Warwick was taken up with landfill. In July last year it warned that the country will run out of space for its rubbish by 2018 unless new sites are found.’
For years, the UK has simply buried its waste, but as landfills are filling, attitudes and practices are changing. The number of landfill sites operating in the UK has decreased from over 3000 in 1994 to just over 2000 in 2001 and these are still further decreasing. With the significant change in waste disposal, these sites are soon becoming re-used as public open places such as parks, often surrounded by houses and returning to their original beauty.
While it may still be the largest form of waste disposal in the UK, our country is finally moving away from the use of landfill sites. With the increase of education and professional waste disposal companies such as Enviro Waste London, we can continue to return to this country to its original beauty.
Chemicals and components being exposed to the planet
The components of e-waste are extremely complex, and when disposed of, can produce extremely hazardous chemicals, harmful to both the planet and humans. Here are just a few of the health effects research has found from the result of improper disposal of e-waste: (www.electronics.howstuffworks.com/everyday-tech/e-waste)
- Cadmium affects your body’s ability to metabolise calcium, leading to bone pain and severely weakened fragile bones.
- Chromium can cause skin irritation and rashes and is potentially carcinogenic.
- Copper can irritate the throat and lungs and affect the liver, kidneys and other body systems.
- Lead poisoning can cause a whole slew of health problems including the impairment of cognitive and verbal activity. Eventually, lead exposure can cause paralysis, coma and death.
- Silver probably won’t hurt you, but handle it too frequently and you might come down with a case of argyria – a condition that permanently stains your skin a blue-grey shade.
Fly-tipping refers to dumping waste illegally instead of using an authorised rubbish dump or refuse site.
An ongoing problem in this country, fly-tipping is either through laziness or lack of education. As an authorised waste clearance company, at Enviro Waste London we can eliminate this illegal practise.
Illegal exporting of e-waste
The lack of recycling education, knowledge and resources means that e-waste has been shipped overseas, and in many situations, illegally.
‘According to a recent United Nations report, China now appears to be the largest e-waste dumping site in the world’ (CNN.com, November 2013).
CNN stated that many of these gadgets that are shipped to China were originally manufactured there. ‘In a strange twist of global economics, much of this electronic junk returns to China to die.’ But why are these shipments illegally exported?
Much of the e-waste comes through illegal channels because under United Nations conventions, there is a specific ban on electronic waste being transferred from developed countries such as the United States to countries like China and Vietnam.
China, however, have used this to their advantage. For the past decade, the southeastern town of Guiyu, nestled in China‘s main manufacturing zone, has been a major hub for the disposal of e-waste. Hundreds of thousands of people there have become experts at dismantling the world’s electronic junk.
But recycling in Guiyu is dirty, dangerous work. Street recycling workers don’t have the correct equipment and often use their bare hands, leaving themselves open to serious health risks.
With better education in countries such as the UK, e-waste wouldn’t have to be shipped overseas. As Ma, the Greenpeace spokesman in Beijing said: “When recycling is done properly, it’s a good thing for the environment.”
Burning of e-waste
Burning of unwanted material has always been a well-used practice, especially at landfill sites. But with e-waste it is emerging that primary and secondary exposure to toxic metals, such as lead, results mainly from open-air burning used to retrieve valuable components such as gold. Combustion from burning e-waste creates fine particulate matter, which has been linked to pulmonary and cardiovascular disease (www.prb.org). With the proper education of e-waste disposal, and the use of professional waste companies, this could be avoided.