Monday, May 10, 2010
With the rapidly changing technology for electronic devices and cheap production of electronics a serious issue arises regarding the disposal of them. We are disposing of electronics at a record pace in our modern society. As society becomes more dependent on electronic products to make life more convenient, the stockpile of used, obsolete products grows. Proper electronic disposal and electronic recycling is something each individual and each business needs to participate in if we are going to cut down on electric waste going to dumps and landfills.
Television TV Disposal and Recycling:
LCD and Plasma TVs are becoming very common now. Unfortunately that leaves many of the older television sets more unpopular to the consumer. We end up discarding of them when we no longer want or need them. CRT televisions are no longer worth fixing, so they end up in landfills more frequently. Televisions are one of the main sources of electronic waste. There are several reasons why television recycling is important. Like old computer monitors, televisions have a device inside that enables the viewing of the image. Before LCD screens came to market, the viewing device used inside a monitor was a Cathode Ray Tube or CRT. Contained within the CRT inside your old computer monitors and televisions, there are large quantities of lead, phosphorous, cadmium, barium and mercury. When a computer monitor or TV is land filled, large equipment is commonly used to crush the waste. As a finished product, these hazardous materials are sealed, however, the crushing of such waste causes the hazardous materials to be released into the soil and a leaching process occurs as a result. Eventually, these hazardous materials may find their way into a water supply or our food chain. When monitor glass is crushed by trash facilities, the lead-bearing particles become an airborne hazard. There are some companies that specialize in television and computer monitor recycling and diverts 100% of the components from landfills. Although most electronics contain hazardous materials, most parts of any electronic device can be recycled. Everything from the monitor glass, to the plastic casing, to the copper, power supply, and even the processor can be recycled. The panel glass and funnel glass that are removed from a TV is recycled to make new cathode ray tubes. Even the steel and other metals that televisions contain are recycled to make other products. It is important to utilize the services of a recycler that specializes in monitor and television recycling. In addition to TVs, many VCRs are ending up in landfills and dumps since that technology is being phased out. Millions of remote controls for these electronic devices get discarded as e-waste every year as well. If you have an old VCR or DVD player that you no longer want there are many charities and non-profit organizations that you can give them to. There are also probably some companies in your area that recycle old VCRs and even newer DVD players that would otherwise be thrown out in the dump. It is the goal of electronic manufacturers to always come out with new features and functions on televisions and DVD players. They want us to keep buying new units so their profits keep increasing. Now with mass production and relatively low prices it makes it easier for consumers to dispose of electronics they no longer want. Unfortunately much of this e-waste ends up in landfills.
You should not throw old cameras away. Working cameras have secondhand value, and can be found at many camera shops. Disposal cameras are something we should avoid when possible. Recent studies have shown that, despite the recycling claims on the boxes, more than half of disposable cameras are never actually recycled. Enough cameras have been tossed to circle the planet, stacked end-to-end. Local film developers often have little or no incentive to return the camera bodies to the manufacturers, and not all parts of the cameras can be recycled.One huge advantage of digital cameras is that we tend to hang on to them longer. As well only photos that we want are printed out, so that cuts down on paper waste. Batteries are a huge concern with digital cameras. Since digital cameras are a huge drain on batteries we should only use rechargeable batteries for them. Digital cameras contain many of the same potentially toxic materials found in laptops and computers. Like recycling computers, digital cameras need to be recycled as well. You can donate old cameras or if they don’t work at all there may be someone in your area that recycles old digital cameras. In addition, more and more vendors are providing easy ways to recycle their old products. Some “waste management sites” will collect, store, and dismantle the products into the form of common raw materials where they can be bought and sold on the global market. Kodak is an example of one company that has made a commitment to protecting the environment . Kodak's various waste reduction activities is its "One-Time-Use Camera" recycling program. The program allows Kodak to refurbish used single-use cameras and offer them for resale. After Kodak launched the program in 1990, the camera recycling rates increased dramatically, reaching 77 percent in the United States and 67 percent worldwide.
Cell Phone Recycling:
The number of discarded cell phones, which contain lead, arsenic and cadmium, has been growing as cell phone use rapidly increases. Millions of used cell phones wind up in landfills, leaking toxic metals and chemicals into the ground every year in North America alone. Because cell phones and their batteries contain many hazardous materials that can harm the environment if not disposed of properly, it's important to know how and where to recycle e-waste in an environmentally responsible way no matter how old and busted it is. Like many other modern electronic devices, cellular phones contain circuit boards, batteries and LCDs that each contains a number of harmful materials in them. When cell phones are dumped in landfills, these elements eventually break down and seep out into the environment. Lead, cadmium and mercury pollution could potentially cause deadly side effects as far as human health and the environment is concerned. Certain states like California have made cell phone recycling mandatory for any retailers that sell mobile phones.Many used cell phones get refurbished or recycled under donation programs that help charities, but it's a tiny fraction of the millions of cell phones that are retired each year in North America. While the cell phone industry recently launched a new initiative to publicize recycling, existing efforts by individual wireless companies with collection boxes in their stores have so far attained only modest success. And even those phones that are refurbished raise environmental concerns because they still may eventually end up in the garbage, especially if sold in poorer nations with no recycling programs, as many of refurbished phones are. Charitable recycling programs encourage the donation of used cell phones and will provide a monetary contribution to charity for each cell phone donated.
Household Appliance Recycling/Stove & Fridge Recycling
In our modern society we often throw away household appliances when they no longer work. They include microwaves, toasters, blenders, juicers, coffee makers, vacuum cleaners and many other household appliances. Add to this the disposal of old refrigerators and stoves that go to the dump after they don’t work anymore. Due to the impact of the amount of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) found in your fridge and freezer their disposal is now tightly controlled by regulations. Ozone depleting substances are tightly controlled because of their harmful effects on the earth’s ozone layer and their contribution to global warming. Older fridges contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) but in the 1970's it was discovered that CFC's cause a thinning of the earth's protective ozone layer. Newer models of refrigerators use hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC's) and hydrofluorcarbons (HFC's). These chemicals don't deplete the ozone layer to the same extent as CFC's, but they do contribute to global warming. Stoves along with washers and dryers should also be recycled when they no longer work. We need to be careful on how we dispose of home air conditioners. Older air conditioners used chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as their refrigerant, but because these chemicals are damaging to Earth's ozone layer, CFC production stopped in the United States in 1995.Today's main refrigerant for home air conditioners, HCFC-22 (also called R-22) also contributes to ozone depletion.
People are using more and more household batteries. The average person in North America throws out about eight household batteries per year. About three billion batteries are sold annually in the U.S. averaging about ten per person. A battery is an electrochemical device with the ability to convert chemical energy to electrical energy to provide power to electronic devices. Batteries contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel, which can contaminate the environment when batteries are improperly disposed of. When incinerated, certain metals might be released into the air or can concentrate in the ash created by the combustion process. Batteries produce many potential problems or hazards. They pollute lakes and the water supply and contribute to heavy metals that potentially may seep from landfills. They also contain strong corrosive acids, which are an environmental, and health hazard. Dry-cell batteries include alkaline and carbon zinc (9-volt, D, C, AA, AAA), mercuric-oxide (button, some cylindrical and rectangular), silver-oxide and zinc-air (button), and lithium (9-volt, C, AA, coin, button, rechargeable). On average, each person in the United States discards eight dry-cell batteries per year. Secondary batteries (rechargeable) include lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, and potentially nickel-hydrogen. Americans purchase nearly 3 billion dry-cell batteries every year to power radios, toys, cellular phones, watches, laptop computers, and portable power tools.
In landfills, heavy metals from batteries have the potential to leach slowly into soil, groundwater or surface water. Dry cell batteries contribute about 88 percent of the total mercury and 50 percent of the cadmium in the municipal solid waste stream. In the past, batteries accounted for nearly half of the mercury used in the United States and over half of the mercury and cadmium in the municipal solid waste stream. When burned, some heavy metals such as mercury may vaporize and escape into the air, and cadmium and lead may end up in the ash.
Using rechargeable batteries are one way to cut down on toxic waste caused by the reckless disposal of batteries. These are known as secondary cell batteries and are commonly used for cameras, rechargeable appliances such as portable power tools, camcorders, computers, portable radios and tape players, cellular phones and other hand held devices. Unfortunately there are not many ways to recycle non-rechargeable batteries and most get discarded as waste. However the use of rechargeable batteries such as Nickel cadmium (NiCd), nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) and Lithium Ion (Li ion) is increasing at a rapid pace. These batteries last longer. They should also be recycled. The NiCd battery is one of the more hazardous batteries in terms of disposal. If used in landfills, the cadmium will eventually dissolve itself and the toxic substance will seep into the water supply, and into the food chain causing serious health problems. Our oceans are already beginning to show traces of cadmium along with other toxins, but the source of the contamination is unknown. Under no circumstances can batteries be incinerated as this can cause them to explode. Although NiMH batteries are considered environmentally friendly, this chemistry is also being recycled. The main derivative is nickel, which is considered semi-toxic. NiMH also contains an electrolyte that, in large amounts, is dangerous to the environment.
Other Electronic E-Waste:
There is other electronic waste or e-waste that many people throw out. Stereos, clocks, alarm clocks, radios, watches, hairdryers, smoke detectors, lamps, portable heaters and other consumer electronics are being thrown out at a record pace.
Smoke alarms are items we need to discard of properly. The most common type of smoke detector contains a small amount of Americium 241, a radioactive material. On your wall this presents little threat. When broken open in an incinerator or landfill, the material can pose a serious health hazard. Also we throw away a lot of damaged and unwanted CDs. Damaged CD's can be repaired, and repair or reuse is definitely a better environmental option than recycling. Obsolete or unrepairable CD's can be recycled. Also we have thrown away unwanted vinyl records that we no longer use along with cassettes and other sources that hold media.We normally dispose off used light bulbs along with the household garbage which is dumped in landfills. By disposing of this e-waste in this manner toxins are released in the air and gradually reach our water system. CFL or Compact Flourescent Bulbs are dangerous if not disposed of properly. Even though they lower greenhouse gas emissions but a used CFL bulb contains hazardous componds and if a bulb breaks at home harmful compounds are released. It contains mercury vapour which is injurious and poisonous. Mercury in any form is injurious to humans and can lead to serious complications including impairment of the nervous system, major organs and numerous other ailments including effecting brain development in children.The amount of this e-waste is very toxic to the environment and contributes to human health issues and even global warming.
Electronic Environmental Fees:
Some areas in North America and Europe have imposed environmental fees
These environmental fees are used for the collection, transportation and recycling of unused and unwanted electronics. It's also used for research into new recycling technologies, and public information and awareness-building programs as well.
To achieve the highest environmental outcome, e-waste items must be manually dismantled into individual materials and components. This is labour intensive and expensive, as difficult waste streams such as glass, mercury, batteries and wood must be forwarded on at a charge for environmentally friendly recycling. The costs involved, are higher than the returns from the materials contained within electronic waste. Therefore to provide this service a fee must be charged to cover the gap between the costs of disassembly and revenue earned from the components and materials of the discarded electronics. Recycling electronics involves processing the materials and recovering metals, glass and plastics that can be recycled into new products. Other disposal methods may be cheaper or free. The electronics will be transported to a consolidation centre where they will be sorted for processing. From there,all material will be transferred to approved processingand recycling facilities. Recyclers will be required to meet quidelines which outlines the requirements for environmentally sound recycling in accordance with appropriate health, safety and export provisions.These are most likely to result in large volumes of material which can be recycled and toxic materials often contained in electronic waste going to landfill. Disposal routes for e-waste which are cheap or free do not reflect the true cost of recycling this material. If we do not recycle electronics and reduce the pace of electronic disposal, the environment and communities living in future generations will bear the expense of living and cleaning up contaminated land and water. One individual may think that his or her decision to either recycle or to throw out electronic items may not make an environmental impact. Multiply one individual by a few billion people and you can see we have a potential environmental catastophe to deal with. There is certainly an environmental price to pay for our modern lifestyle in North America and many other parts of the world.