When it comes to technology, we’re constantly upgrading. It felt like only a month after I’d bought a Samsung Galaxy phone that the shinier, larger, improved version of it came out. There’s nothing wrong with upgrading, but with the limited life spans of our electronics, most of us are just throwing away old electronics without thinking of the whether that’s the best method of disposal. Most discarded electronic products end up in landfills or exported to other countries where their toxins are released into the air, soil, and water.
Electronics waste represents 2% of America’s trash in landfills, but makes up 70% of overall toxic waste. Almost all electronics contain toxic materials that can be harmful to people and the planet like lead and mercury. Smartphones and laptops even contain heavy metals like cadmium, beryllium, or arsenic, which can build up in our bodies and the environment. The disposal of electronics from the United States is rarely handled within the country but instead sent to developing countries where the metal is extracted or burned producing dangerous toxins.
Some companies are moving in the right direction and removing certain toxins from their products, and others have started take-back programs that aren’t merely green washing but showing sincere changes.
These are great steps, but you can also get involved by holding an e-waste collection drive like my local elementary school or even handing down or reselling your technology. As consumers of these products, it’s our responsibility to make sure that our gadgets are being handled properly after they’ve served their purpose and that they’re also being made with less toxins before they enter out eager hands.