Photo: Greenpeace India
You already know that you shouldn’t just send that old laptop or printer to the landfill once you’ve upgraded and moved on, right?
Environmental advocates agree that thoughtless disposal of electronics is a bad move: hazardous chemicals leach into the ground soil and water table, causing eventual health problems for humans and animals.
But lately, environmentalists have also been concerned about where donated electronics are ending up, and they’re raising questions about the more immediate health threats the recycling and reuse of electronics are causing.
Eighty percent of the e-waste that is sent for recycling ends up in countries outside the West, where it’s typically cheaper–often, as much as 10 times cheaper–to reprocess our used goods. Much of our e-waste ends up in Asia and Africa, where workers strip the electronics of their components, such as copper wire and other metals that can be resold.
The price, though, may be higher than the payoff: workers expose themselves to dangerous chemicals that can create long-term health problems, as the video below documents:
So what can you do to get rid of e-waste responsibly? Greenpeace offers some advice here.
Do you have other electronics you’d like to donate safely? Learn more about donating old cameras here. And for some ideas about other odd items you can recycle safely, please read our article, Random Things You Didn’t Know You Could Recycle.
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Julie Schwietert Collazo is a writer, editor, researcher, and translator currently in New York, formerly of Mexico City and San Juan. She is Matador's managing editor and is the lead faculty member of MatadorU's travel writing program.
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