“The treatment of electronic waste has become not only important, but it is absolutely urgent” – Atcham Steiner.
In the animated film “Wall-E”, a friendly robot is designed to clean junk that covers the earth after it was destroyed and abandoned by humans. Once again, the film predicts possible realities. Today the developed and developing are facing serious environmental problems due to the accumulation of vast amounts of electronic waste.
Arguably the advances in technology led to many changes in everyday life. The significant increase in the standards of comfort and life expectancy, the simplification of production processes and daily tasks, and in respect of communications, that have been largely freed from the constraints of time and space.
However, less friendly face of technological progress is reflected in an exponential growth in electronic wastes, from which we can name: computers, phones, TVs, appliances, among others, the problem now facing both developed and developing nations developing.
Today, electronic waste contains heavy metals and persistent toxic chemicals do not degrade easily in the environment from which we can identify lead, mercury, beryllium and cadmium. Since these devices have been designed using such substances are disposed, are not willing or recycled in an environmentally safe.
The manufacture of electronic products has grown in recent years due to new designs that reduce the life of the articles. This replacement generates large amounts of waste that require differential treatment of the traditional garbage because they contain substances hazardous to health and the environment.
Production are used in compounds such as chromium (which is part of the metal covers) and is carcinogenic, cadmium (found in rechargeable batteries, contacts and connections monitor cathode ray tube) and affects the kidneys and bones; mercury (used in the lighting system of flat screen monitors) and damages the brain and nervous system; lead (on the monitors of the cathode ray tube and solder) and causes intellectual impairment , damage to the nervous, circulatory and reproductive systems, flame retardants (used in circuit boards and plastic sheeting) that are neurotoxin and impair learning and memory.
The problems of electronic waste produced in the environment
1) emit toxins when burned improperly by those who seek valuable components, such as copper and gold.
2) A fluorescent tube, because it contains mercury and phosphorus can pollute 16,000 liters of water.
3) A nickel cadmium battery cell phone can pollute 50,000 liters of water and affect 10 cubic meters of soil.
4) A TV can contaminate 80,000 liters of water for their metal content in platelets, lead glass and phosphorus on the screen.
5) A platelet a cell phone or a computer has mercury, bromine, cadmium, lead and selenium, among other pollutants Argentina hazardous under the hazardous waste law.
6) A refrigerator or air conditioner is CFC gases which destroy the ozone layer, in the refrigerant as in the polyurethane foam.
The environmental and health risks posed by growing number of e-waste around the world are especially urgent in developing countries, since some receive waste from developed nations. The waste is accumulating on the planet at a rate of 40/50 million tones per year. The biggest growth in recent years has been phones and similar devices.
The United Nations Organization (UN) called for urgent action against the serious problem for the environment and public health posed by the exponential growth of electronic waste. In the world generate millions of tons of electronic waste. Between 50% and 80% of this technological junk ends up in China’s city-dump or in developing countries like India, Pakistan and Nigeria.
Guy, for example, a city in Guangdong province (southern China), has become the largest e-waste dump of the Earth. In this city just many of the technological waste generated each year throughout the world. Of the 150,000 inhabitants of Guy, 95% earns a living by opening and removing computers and other electronic devices, exposing themselves, without any security measure, many toxic components, such as lead, cadmium or mercury.
And all this despite the fact that China signed the Basel Convention, which prohibits developed countries to export their electronic waste to developing nations. However, certain loopholes allow disguise the junk under the formula of repair or recycling. Only in the United States, the global trade in electronic waste generated each year over 500 million euros. In Latin America, Brazil and Mexico are the main producers of technology.
Argentina rises in the ranks of producers of electronic waste: in 2009 produced a significant volume of waste containing metal contaminants due to rapid technological change.
This increase is alarming, since the lack of recycling programs, waste often end up in landfills, contaminating soil, ground water and air, or is incinerated, which causes the release of heavy metals into the atmosphere such as lead, cadmium or mercury. In addition, these wastes contain PVC, chlorinated dioxins and furans emitted, which are carcinogenic gaseous components.
According to a report by Prince & Cooke, between 700,000 and 800,000 computers were in use. Camera data add that, in the last two years, the volume of laser printers that were out of circulation rose from 90,000 to 200,000 units. With respect to ink jet printers, rose from one million to 1.5 million. But the stars that build batteries and chips are the phones: Last year, ended up in the trash about 10 million phones.
Senator Daniel Films, the current president of the Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development of the National Senate, introduced a bill to regulate the proper handling of e-waste in Argentina, considering the various aspects are taken into account in the Global rules: the production of goods, refuse, recycling and collection thereof. This legislation is being adopted and is seen as the beginning of the road for discarded electronics will not end up in landfills.
Electronic waste, including outdated computers, televisions, mobile phones, batteries, audio equipment, among others, are the subject of growing concern among the authorities because they can become a source of pollution to groundwater, because of lead and other toxic substances that contain . The solution, experts say, is to recycle these materials and prevent them from nature.
According to a recent analysis, a computer monitor or television can contain more than 3 kilograms of lead. If we consider that only in the United States will soon send more than 12 million tones of e-waste to landfills, the environmental problem becomes very serious.
While authorities review their legislation to prevent this from happening, scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have conducted a study that suggests that “reverse production”, i.e. the extraction of useful materials from e-waste, will be the solution to taken in the coming years. Thus, materials such as lead, copper, aluminum and gold, as well as various types of plastics, glass and cables, could be recovered and recycled into future products.
The process should be economically viable, and this is one of the great challenges of the proposal. Jane Ammos and Matthew Ralf, the GET, are devising strategies to make it possible. Foremost among them a mathematical modeling system which takes into account all the variables involved (up 300,000), which will deal more decisively any recycling initiative. Technically speaking, researchers have devised ways to separate the different metals, as well as the various qualities of plastic components from crushed and discarded.
Thus, in Argentina, you can find companies like Sulkers SA The company provides collection, separation, recovery and recycling of electronic waste, recovering important natural resources and minimizing environmental impact.
The company’s objectives as:
- Recovery, recycling and minimization of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEE), non-ferrous scrap metal and scrap auto catalysts and chemicals, petrochemicals, glass, among others.
- Promotion of sustainable management of WEE in offices, industries, businesses, public bodies and individuals; encouraging separate collection processes, transportation-enabled sites, disassembly, recovery and recycling.
- Promoting the sustainable use of treatment technologies, recycling and disposal within Argentina or export under the Basel Convention on Hazardous Waste Regulations Argentina.
Also, in the country a Network Operator Market Metals, Waste and Scrap of Argentina, called Escarp, whose mission is to promote sustainable use of electrical and electronic equipment throughout the life cycle of these products, from production to recycling or disposal in compliance with current environmental regulations and preserve the confidentiality of data stored on the e-scrap.
Escarp develops and promotes tools, procedures and market processes in order to encourage the reuse, recycling and other forms of recovery of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEE) to reduce the disposal or disposal in landfills or landfill, or discarded clandestinely in Argentina.
It works like a stock exchange or board to link the supply of generators of WEE Operators of Hazardous Waste and Scrap Recyclers or byproducts. The customer can upload their supply or demand: type of apparatus, components, quantity, volume monthly retreat, reference price, bids, among other services.
Due to the worrying increase of waste electrical and electronic pollution that is generated every day on the planet, Greenpeace Argentina began the Electronic Waste Campaign to raise public awareness about this problem, which includes the promotion of Bill Management Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment.
Greenpeace believes that it is possible to clean products, durables, which are updatable, recyclable and easy to handle at the end of its useful life and not end up as garbage dumps and hazardous waste landfills polluting the environment.
The challenges ahead are varied, but mainly there are three issues that now occupy the attention of experts in the field. The recycling of old equipment, consisting in the separation of toxic waste and use materials that can be reused, the creation of appropriate legislation that emphasizes the so-called extended producer responsibility and production of electronic goods which components are more beneficial to the environment.
The speed at which this mountain of obsolete electronic products is growing generate a crisis of vast proportions unless electronics corporations, who profit by manufacturing and selling these devices, we must take responsibility.