E-waste is an issue that plagues our modern society. As the world makes vast technological and societal advances and more products are being made better and cheaper, the means of disposing of outdated technology have not. These waste products are often shipped to less or under-developed nations, where often underpaid and over-worked laborers break down these items for their parts. Bits of silver, gold, copper, iron, lead, and platinum are extracted using acids, heat, and chemical baths, all of which are toxic to the workers, who wear no protective equipment. The plastic components, such as motherboards and circuits, are burned or melted in order to separate the metal components from their plastic shell, and the smoke and residue from this process is extremely toxic to breathe and touch. In addition, the acids and chemicals used in the “recycling” process seep into ground and surface water, the stench of burning plastics fill the air, lead seeps into food and water supplies, and a smog covers the area, coating everything in a film of toxins. Most of these workers have very little, if any protective equipment, and they often consider themselves lucky if they aren’t burned or cut in a working day. Despite these apparent dangers, all these workers receive in return for their efforts are fractions of what the device originally cost, forcing them to continue working in this dangerous job in order to support their families. This process is not sustainable, and we need to do something about this issue, and fast. We need to reduce our e-waste production as a whole and find suitable companies that are willing to break down these discarded bits of tech in safe and humane environment. We need to pay more attention to what we as a society do with our “trash electronics,” and we as a community need to pay more attention to the impacts of our technological world.
Some companies have the capabilities to do this in safer and more regulated environments, and one that collects from our area can be found at: https://www.newtechrecycling.com/e-waste/disposal/NJ_NY_NYC_LI_CT_PA.html