E-Waste and How We Can Make A Change
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An increasingly relevant issue in a society obsessed with sleek technologies is the fate of our electronic waste. Corporations blindly neglect the consequences of shipping discarded products to recyclers and brokers, who often sell the materials to developing countries. In these nations, environmental and work conditions are loosely regulated, leading to the large-scale exploitation of workers. E-waste has a potent impact on human lives and our Earth, prompting issues that abuse the dignity of humans, workers' rights, and the environment.
In essence, e-waste is caused by the deliberate faulty manufacture of products by high-profile companies. Products are manufactured so that they will malfunction relatively shortly after they are first used. This poor manufacturing engenders appreciable sale increases for the companies. According to data collected by the UN Environmental Programme, the amount of e-waste produced annually may total 50 million tons as of 2008. In our throw-away society, we can often afford to buy and then discard multiple devices. As a result, more and more products such as cell phones, TVs, and computer monitors are being tossed away by consumers. Many corporations then promise to safely recycle the discarded devices. The products are shipped to brokers who often continue to send them to nations such as China and Ghana. The process is cyclical.
The greatest crimes against humanity and the environment occur in these locations. It is common for not only adults but also children to toil in the macabre landfills where discarded electronic products end up. People extract copper, lead, and gold from hard drives and memory chips. Materials are burned, causing noxious chemicals and carcinogens to be released into the ground and atmosphere. This pollution has an immediate impact on those working in the landfills. “The gas goes to your nose and you feel something in your head,” admits Mensah, a twenty-year-old man from Ghana whose living is made in the e-waste metal trade. Mensah and many others sell materials from one scrapload and continue to buy more.
Some strides have been made on the national level to halt the influx of e-waste into developing countries. China banned its importation in 2000. Nevertheless, this ban is not regulated adamantly, and many corporations continue to ship products to these areas. A semblance of change is perpetuated, but the reality of environmental concern is gossamer. Brokers profit by exploiting those willing to work in perilous landfill conditions, and this is a reprehensible violation of the dignity of work and workers’ rights. The pursuit of profit should never be prioritized over human health. Workers should not be exploited or subject to hazardous situations.
When people are preoccupied by the allure of a quick profit, care for the planet is neglected. The e-waste epidemic is causing mass air and land pollution, as toxics including mercury, lead, and arsenic leak from landfills into the ground. To combat these abuses, we can opt to upgrade our hardware when devices malfunction rather than buy wholly new products. Within our schools, students can support companies that produce eco-friendly products by raising money and awareness for the anti-e-waste cause. Making strides within our small communities will have a large-scale effect on enriching the dignity of human lives and the wellbeing of our environment. Although these efforts may be small, the practice of raising awareness will condition the human population to accept the cycle of reuse as one of inherent value. The value of being environmentally friendly in our actions will transcend into other arenas of our lives, which is itself a major stride in ensuring a greener tomorrow.