March 27, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 32°F


Commentary: E-waste is an overlooked issue at IC

E-waste continues to become the world’s fastest-growing trash stream. Tons of unwanted electronics are produced in U.S. homes, businesses, and institutions. Information released by Tompkins Weekly explains that the U.S. alone produces 9.4 million tons of e-waste annually. Just in case you’re wondering what 9.4 million tons of trash looks like, just imagine 40 blue whales. Of the 9.4 million tons of e-waste produced, only 12.5% is recycled. The increase of affordable electronics has changed our way of life, making consumers unaware of the amount of e-waste produced. After working with friends and local organizations in NYC to mitigate e-waste, I have become educated on the growing effects of e-waste on the world. The World Health Organization is warning that the amount of e-waste around the world is growing significantly. But what is e-waste and why are there health risks associated with it? 

Electronic waste includes all discarded electronic devices. The dangers produced by e-waste come from direct contact with harmful materials and heavy metals including lead, mercury, cadmium, and chromium. When these toxic fumes are inhaled, damage to human blood and central and peripheral nervous system occurs. E-waste does not only affect the human body, but also our water, soil, and food. Another reason to encourage proper management of e-waste is the negative effect it has on developing countries. More specifically, children who work behind the scenes that extract valuable material like gold and copper. Valuable materials like gold and copper are often extracted using primitive methods like burning cables to remove the plastic. These makeshift methods expose workers, who are often children, to toxic fumes. 

Most college students try to stay uptodate on the latest technology, which causes a surge in e-waste. Being conscious of your e-waste and taking the necessary steps to help fight e-waste spike can slow down the negative effects on our planet. 

What can you do to help combat e-waste? You can sell or donate old electronics. It is suggested that consumers maintain electronics properly so they last longer. If you find yourself with old electronics that do not work, you can recycle and dispose of e-waste properly. It is also important to take the initiative to find certified local electronic companies and drop-off points to dispose of our e-waste responsibly. Another important factor that can significantly lower e-waste is gaining knowledge about e-waste management near you.  For example, the Finger Lakes ReUse Center computer repair and refurbishment program accepts different types of used electronics and ensures that sensitive information is wiped to make sure your data isn’t passed on to the next user. The Ithaca ReUse Center sells electronics back to the community at affordable prices. In turn, this increases access to electronics that may be inaccessible to citizens otherwise. 

As e-waste continues to spike, knowing where and how old electronics are being disposed of can lower the chances of children worldwide exposure to harmful material and fumes. Remember to donate instead of throwing out old electronics. Invest efforts into the reduction of e-waste, as it will not only save money, but also help to promote healthier lifestyles for families around the world and a more sustainable environment.