E-Waste

Posted by Des Menz on 30 Nov. 2011


Pollution

WHAT IS E-WASTE?

The term E-Waste can include any item that is electrical or electronic.

E-Waste consists of TV's, computers, printers, telephones & mobile phones, DVD & VHS players/recorders, copiers, fax machines, microwave ovens, refrigerators, kitchen appliances ... and anything else containing electronics of some sort.

E-waste in landfill – a toxic time bomb

  • Decades of toxic ewaste dumped in landfills have released dangerous metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, and other chemicals into the surrounding soil and groundwater.
  • Substances found in large quantities in ewaste are epoxy resins, PCB's (printed circuit boards), PVC (polyvinyl chlorides), thermosetting plastics, lead, tin, copper, silicon, beryllium, carbon, iron, aluminium.
  • Substances found in smaller quantities are cadmium, mercury, thallium.
  • There are at least 28 other trace elements.
  • The health effects of such materials in humans can be devastating. Research shows that tumours, mental health disorders, and cancer are just some of the results. A recent study by Queensland University’s National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology concluded that these chemicals produce alarming results, with children under four years of age showing the highest levels of blood contamination.
  • The average Australian household has at least 22 different electronic appliances. See how many are in your household. The lifespan of these appliances is diminishing at the same time as price is declining. What does this say about QUALITY? What does it say about Resources Use and Waste?
  • Consumption and consumerism are also great problems, because the result is a stream of ewaste that is accumulating three times faster than any other part of the municipal waste stream.


E-waste is dangerous and it must be kept out of landfills

Here's what Zerowaste SA has said :

  • In 2007–08, 16.8 million TVs and computers were discarded in Australia, with 84% of these sent to landfill. Of the 15.7 million computers that reached their ‘end-of-life’ in Australia in 2007–08, only 1.5 million were recycled – that’s less than 10%.
  • At 30 June 2009, Australia had over 24 million mobile phone subscribers. Australians update their mobile phones every 18-24 months. About 83% keep or give away their old mobile phones and 3% throw them out (down from 9% in 2005). About 14-16 million old and unused mobile phones are lying around in Australia.

Now consider the following ...

  • There are an estimated 40 million analogue radio receivers in Australia – all will be replaced when analogue transmission is switched off in the near future. What is going to happen to these radios?
  • What is going to happen to the millions of analogue TV's that will be “junked” after the switchover to digital signals?
  • Australians discard millions of major appliances each year, and yet almost all of these can be recycled. Many of the materials found in ewaste are far from the end of their useful life and are of value.
  • Recycling e-waste reduces toxins in landfill and also reduces the amount of raw materials that are mined from the earth.
  • The South Australian Environment Protection Authority’s new Environment Protection (Waste to Resources) Policy 2010 (EPP) bans TVs and computer monitors from being dumped in landfill in metropolitan Adelaide from 1 September 2012 and state-wide by 1 September 2013.


If e-waste is so toxic, why is it being sent to developing countries for processing?

The Basel Convention was framed about 20 years ago and is an international treaty designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste to developing countries.

Despite over 150 countries ratifying the Basel Convention, exporting ewaste to unregulated recycling centres in developing countries is still a major issue worldwide.

It is reported that Australia has been exporting increasing amounts of ewaste to China, India and other Asian countries, with an estimated worth of about $20 million a year. Australia could very well be in breach of the Basel Convention as well as in breach of its own Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act.

(Ref : http://www.ewaste.com.au/exporting-electronic-waste-where/)


BE PART OF THE SOLUTION – DON'T THROW E-WASTE AWAY ... KEEP IT OUT OF LANDFILLS

Are you concerned about the location of the landfill in your area?

How much e-waste has been dumped into the site over the years?

What will be the environmental effects in the future, if not already occurring at the present?


WHAT CAN BE DONE?

Waiting for September 2013 to come is not an excuse to divert TV's and computers only from landfill.

LOCAL ACTION IS NEEDED BY LOCAL GOVERNMENT

  • Help to establish an e-waste collection service for your area.
  • Ensure that you divert all e-waste from the waste collection service.
  • Contact various authorities and politicians to ensure that e-waste is complying with the Basel Convention and current laws.
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