What is E-waste and why is it a problem?

Electronic waste, nicknamed e-waste, is increasingly becoming a global problem. Electronic waste describes discarded electrical or electronic devices. Often, people buy new electronics, like smart phones, despite ours being fully functional. The average American only keeps a cell phone for 18 months before discarding it. These devices pile up in landfills across the globe and continue to harm the Earth.

E-waste is becoming the toxic legacy of the digital age. This type of waste pollutes drinking water and harms ecosystems around the world. It’s a global problem. iFixit says at least 50 percent of Africa’s e-waste comes from within the continent. China discards 160 million electronic devices a year.

E-waste is becoming a huge problem that very few are looking to find solutions for. More than 20 million tons of e-waste are produced every year. Americans alone generate about 3.4 million tons of per year.

iFixit reports 1.6 billion cell phones were manufactured in 2012. These electronics are packed with toxic chemicals — arsenic, lead and poly-brominated flame retardants.

An alternate option to avoid these devices ending up in landfills is to recycle them. But, even then 30 percent of it is lost. According to iFixit even when recycled, a significant amount of electronic material cannot be recovered.

So, instead of buying new products and tossing away the old ones, the solution is to fix our old devices. If there were cheaper opportunities to fix old technology it would create skilled jobs and give poor communities around the world access to low-cost technology. And, at the same time it would decrease the growing e-waste problem.

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