Landfills and Exporting: The Problem

While throwing E-Waste in the trash is appealing simply for its convenience, the ramifications of this are astronomical. E-Waste is only estimated to be about two percent of the solid waste stream; however, it accounts for seventy percent of overall toxic waste currently flooding our landfills (EPA). This toxic recipe entails; lead, beryllium, hexavalent chromium, phosphor, barium, mercury, cadmium, brominated flame retardants, plastics, and more.

 

These substances are extremely lethal not only to our soils, waterways, and ozone layer, but also to humans and wildlife. DNA damage, asthmatic bronchitis, kidney damage, nervous and reproductive system damage, brain damage and swelling, bone fragility, muscle weakness, heart damage, liver damage, and spleen damage are all side effects of exposure to these toxins. Furthermore, these pollutants inhibit nutrition to children and developing fetuses, while also reducing necessary hormone levels in both humans and animals.
E-Waste being exported to developing countries for disposal also poses concerns. While this method removes the problem from American soil, it does not eradicate the environmental and humanistic distresses.

 

Lacking the technology, tools, resources, and trained workforce to correctly recycle these materials, these countries are using methods of disposal that increase the potential for environmental contamination. Incineration, acid leaching, wet chemical processing, heat treatment for metal recovery, and burning of PVC cables for copper recovery, all of which release toxins into the air, ashes, waterways and food chains, are standard procedures.