The Global Impact of E-Waste 20 Jun 2021
As an organisation where technology is relied upon to provide the best possible experience/service for your clients and employees, it comes as no surprise that businesses are constantly looking to update and improve their IT assets. Whether it is computers, laptops, tablets, and even company mobile phones, businesses tend to keep on top of their upgrades to help increase their productivity.
Keeping on top of IT updates and system improvements is good practice as this will help improve the integrity of your internet and data security. However, it does ask the question, where do all the obsolete IT and mobiles devices go?
The Impact of E-Waste
Electronic waste, also commonly known as e-waste, refers to any electronic product or product containing electrical components that have reached the end of its usable life. When disposing of this waste, many are unaware of the toxic substances that they contain. The utmost care must be taken to ensure these toxins are disposed of correctly.
When these products become outdated, consumers and businesses are encouraged to donate their retired device to someone who might still find it valuable. Retailers tend to offer trade-in programs or even incentives for those looking to upgrade, where the update requires a newer model. In some instances, these ‘trade-in’ deals allow retailers to reuse or repurpose these older models on your behalf.
In instances, however, where a product is no longer useable or beyond repair, a certified e-waste haulier can collect and dispose of your e-waste at a designated drop-off point instead of dumping it in a landfill. The toxins within all e-waste can potentially cause harm to humans, animals, and the global environment if these considerations are overlooked.
When these devices are disposed of improperly, the consequences can be catastrophic. When e-waste ends up in landfill or other dumping sites, serious threats are posed to public health as well as ecosystems. With harmful toxins seeping into the ground, natural ecosystems can be polluted for generations to come. Not to mention the additional impact on the earth’s air, water and soil.
The Environmental Effect of Electronic Waste
Many have been genuinely unaware of the harmful effect e-waste can have on our global environment; however, this ignorance needs to change in today’s world. Companies, both large and small, have a responsibility to make changes to protect the deterioration of our planet’s environment.
The toxins within e-waste have a huge effect on our air quality. Contamination in the air occurs when individuals and corporations cut corners and informally dispose of their IT assets by dismantling, shredding or melting materials. In doing so, dust particles, known as dioxins, are released into the environment. These particles add to our air pollution and cause severe damage to our respiratory health.
Some electronics are burnt in order to obtain valuable metals from them, such as copper. This process, consequently, retrieves some value from these previously wasted products. However, when e-waste is burnt, fine particles are released. The particles created this way have been known to put people and animals at higher risk of health issues, including chronic diseases and cancers. The particles can travel thousands of miles, putting a much larger amount of people in danger.
E-waste that shows the possibility of containing gold or silver also goes through intense extraction methods. Instead of extreme heat, these metals are often removed from highly integrated electronics using acids, desolating, and other chemicals. The fumes that are released if the recycling is not appropriately regulated can be toxic. Those who handle this waste are most at risk; however, the air pollution can extend thousands of miles away from the recycling site.
The air pollution created from all three methods is having a detrimental effect on our biodiversity. Some animal species are more affected than others, causing certain species to become endangered and the biodiversity of certain regions to be chronically polluted. Over time, air pollution will also hurt the water quality, soil and plant species in the surrounding areas. Not only will the biodiversity be damaged, but this will also cause irreversible damage to ecosystems.
Soil becomes at risk from e-waste when improperly disposed of in regular landfills or illegally fly-tipped. Dumped in this way, heavy metal and flame retardants can seep directly from the e-waste into the soil. This results in the contamination of the underlying groundwater, which, in turn, can contaminate future or nearby crops.
When heavy metals corrupt soil, the crops in the vicinity can become vulnerable to absorbing these toxins, not only is the soil in the farmland affected and not as productive as it could be, but the crops could cause illnesses.
Similarly to the air, the ground can also be contaminated when e-waste is burned, shredded or dismantled. Large particles are released and become redeposited in the soil due to their size and weight.
The amount of soil contamination caused by e-waste depends on particular factors, including temperature, soil type, pH levels and soil composition. What doesn’t vary is that the pollutants will remain in the soil for an extended period. Within this time, they will be extremely harmful to microorganisms in the soil and plants. And, of course, any animals and wildlife that rely on nature for their survival will inevitably consume these affected plants and suffer from internal health problems.
The heavy metals that seep out of the e-waste and pollute the soil, such as mercury, lithium, lead and barium, then leak deeper into the ground to reach the groundwater. Here the elements eventually make their way into ponds, streams, rivers and lakes. Through these pathways, they pollute our waters through acidification and toxification. These processes deem the water unsafe for animals, plants and communities, even if they are miles away from a recycling site. Clean drinking water becomes problematic to find.
Acidification in the water causes waters neutral pH to become extremely acidic, killing marine and freshwater organisms, disturbing biodiversity and harming ecosystems. If acidification is present in water supplies, it can damage ecosystems to the point where recovery is questionable, if not impossible.
In order to protect our global environment from the toxic effects of our electronic waste, we all must play our part in recycling our e-waste. By sanitising your retired IT devices, these can be reused, resold and even refurbished for another use. The situation will only worsen if we do not act now.
The Importance of Data Sanitisation
It is crucial to thoroughly sanitise your devices before you take the necessary steps to dispose of your company’s IT assets safely. If your retired IT devices are being passed on as second-hand goods or there is the potential for them to be used for parts, your data must be completely wiped.
Simply moving your redundant files into the bin and deleting them is not enough. Deleted files leave a trace on the hard drive, known as a shadow. Experience hackers will be able to restore your sensitive data from this footprint.
Instead, we recommend wiping your IT assets with data sanitisation software. WipeDrive is the market-leading software in this field. By using military-grade wiping patterns, your company’s confidential data will be irretrievable to all. For more information on the technicalities of WipeDrive, visit our website today. Speak to our sales team on 0345 340 3105 or fill out the enquiry form on our website here.