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I chose to do my social justice project on recycling and electronic waste for a couple of reasons. I thought that the whole system of how it is created and recycled, or more commonly not recycled, was interesting. I wanted to know how the current growing problem of electronic waste is being dealt with and what steps are being taken towards fixing the problem. I wanted to know if the United States is oblivious to the problem of electronic waste and whether or not they were doing anything currently to fix it. Some of the questions I had were why does the United States just send all of our electronic waste out of the country? Are we aware that the E-waste we send out of the country isn’t being properly recycled? How much of the E-waste that we send out of the country actually does end up being recycled and how much of it ends up in landfills?
I actually didn’t know a whole lot about electronic waste before I started researching it. I didn’t know that we sent it out of the country to be recycled although I should have expected that much. I also didn’t know that it is a huge problem because the amount of electronic waste grows exponentionally each year and more and more of it ends up in landfills, which can be a deadly problem. I wanted to research about how much of the electronic waste that is created each year is actually recycled whether in the United States or not.
Recycling research and methodology
Before I started my research I didn’t really know much about my topic. I knew only general information about recycling but nothing specific about electronic waste and recycling or any other form of recycling. Electronic waste is made up of old computers, mobile devices and other electronic doohickeys. Electronic waste poses a greater threat as a waste because it is made up of a mass amount of harmful materials where as regular trash consists usually of just paper and plastic etc. My opinion on electronic waste and how it should be dealt with is that we should not keep sending it out of country and should find a good way to recycle it without having it end up in landfills.
Some things I wanted to know about my topic is how much electronic waste a year ends up in landfills and how and how much is actually properly recycled and reused. I also wanted to know where most of electronic waste goes to be recycled and how much of electronic waste comes from America. What are the methods for recycling electronic waste and are they affective?
Overall, I have just been trying to find general information about the broad topic of electronic waste and the processes affiliated with it in America.
To begin work on my research I used mostly the school websites and just followed the links until I could find an article about recycling and then one about a more specific area of recycling. I finally decided on choosing recycling and electronic waste because I was intrigued by its problems and wondered what the solution to electronic waste was or is. I found out through research on school websites that most electronic waste comes from America, this was not surprising, and that mostly all of it is exported out of country to China or India or other country’s to be recycled, again not so much of a surprise. However, what did surprise me was that most of the electronic waste that the United States and the world produce is in fact not recycled properly, or not recycled at all. A vast majority ends up in China where the recycling techniques are not fully functional of effective and not always even used to recycle. Lots of electronic waste does in fact end up in landfills where instead of being recycled. Instead of being recycled and reuse it ends up sitting there taking up space in the ever growing land fills across the world. The problem of landfills and garbage is already a big enough problem without also adding materials that are supposed to be recycled to the landfills.
So overall in my research so far I have found out what a problem electronic waste can be and I have begun to research on how it can be solved inn different effective ways.
Recycling Electronic Waste
Did you know that you could trade in your old electronics for new ones? Best Buy offers to take your old electronics and trade for new ones. But what about those electronics that are too old to be traded in? Where do they go? That becomes part of the massive amounts of growing electronic waste in the country. Do you know how much electronic waste is recycled a year? Do you know how much of that is shipped out of the United States? Do you know how much is actually recycled and how much ends up in landfills? How much do YOU recycle? I believe that the United States should not ship electronic waste out of the United States and that every American is responsible to recycle. People are responsible to recycle to help in this problem; it doesn’t take that much time out of your day to recycle. It can go a long way towards solving the problem. Everyone needs to recycle.
E?Waste in 2007 – Was it Trashed or Recycled
(million of units)
(million of units)
(million of units)
This chart shows the amount of E-waste actually recycled in 2007. Only 18% or less of each category of electronics was recycled. What happened to the other 82% of the waste? It ended up being thrown away and ended up in landfills. This is a continuing problem because every nations landfills are growing and become more and more hazardous. “THE ELECTRONIC waste generated due to the discarded computes, mobile phones and other gadgets is all set to take a heavy toll on human health and the environment in India unless immediate steps are taken to collect and recycle this waste.” Having materials that could have been recycled end up in landfills is just adding even more to the problem when the problem could have been avoided. This shows how bad this problem really is and that we need to start finding the solution.
A mass amount of electronic waste is sent out of the United States to countries like China every year to be recycled and reused. I suppose we send it out of the US for the convenience. The United States does this with many problems, why bother to do it yourself when you can export it and have it done cheaper and not by you. The same happens with outsourcing of jobs to places like Indonesia. We simply would rather send it away and not have to deal with it then make sure the recycling is done properly inside US borders. Once it is out of the United States control it falls to china or other foreign countries to properly recycle it. However, the electronic waste sent out to foreign countries is rarely recycled properly and a large percent can and does end up in landfills regardless. Since the recycling standards in places like china and others are not entirely effective or safe I propose a new solution to electronic waste. The United States should be responsible for every bit of waste they create. We need not to ship electronic waste out of the country to be recycled but keep it in the US, where we can regulate to make sure that it is in fact actually being recycled and being done correctly. The US needs to take ownership of its waste problems and find a solution, because eventually after all foreign countries landfills are full and they have no more room it will even more of a pressing problem for the US with less time to find a solution. Each and every American needs to step up to the plate and at least do a little part by helping with the recycling of not just electronic waste but also just general recycling.
The flip side to not sending it out of the United States is that the US would have to quickly come up with a solution to this recycling problem and an effective way to do it. Additionally the electronic waste not sent out of country would take up space in the US until it is recycled. After all what would happen if we simply had no foreign countries to export it to and let them worry about it?
Another reason why we should not send electronic waste out of the country to be recycled is because it is harmful to other countries. Every bit of materials we send over to be recycled has some chance of ending up in landfills instead of being recycled and therefore hurting their environment by filling their countries with waste.
So in conclusion I think that sending electronic waste out of the country to be recycled is a bad idea and that each and every American needs to step up and do one small part to solving the electronic waste problem by committing to recycling and by voting to keep electronic waste in the US.
34 Institute For Local Self Reliance, “Recycling Means Business,” 1997.
“E- waste threatens ecology and health.” Mail today [New Delhi, India] 23 Feb.2010. Global Issues In Context.