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By Leonor Villarreal
Some electronic components can contain toxic elements such as lead, beryllium, and flame retardant plastics. Due to the complex composition of materials found in e-waste, specialized methods are required to recover the material in a safe and responsible manner. But the use of appropriate methods is not very frequent, risking health, economic, environmental and social aspects at the same time.
That is why it is of the utmost importance not to throw electronic scrap in the trash and to make sure that the recycler has the necessary authorizations.
What does a monitor contain?
A cathode ray tube, or CRT for short, is the component that displays video on a monitor. A CRT contains approximately 7 kilos of glass, and monitors also contain an average of 2.2 kilos of lead, which is mixed with the glass and serves, in part, as a shield against the x-rays generated in the CRT itself. Other toxic materials that a monitor contains are: cadmium, strontium, barium, arsenic, antimony, and phosphorous compounds.
Due to the high content of toxic material, CRTs should not be thrown away or opened, since doing so disperses all these contaminants.
Where do cell phones come from?
In the periodic table of the elements there is a group of elements called Rare Earths.
Probably when you studied chemistry these went unnoticed, because nobody knew what they are for. Now it turns out that these elements have been indispensable for technological development.
Some of them are ecandium y and yttrium, and the latter is used to make the red color look intense and bright on screens. A single iPhone contains eight different types of these elements, and other smartphones up to sixteen. The problem with these types of elements is that they are distributed in small concentrations throughout the world, and for that reason, their exploitation is very costly economically, and even more worrying, it has a huge environmental and social cost.
It is very important to always keep in mind the relationship between the product, its manufacture and its relationship with the environment and not forget that everything comes from some natural resource. The global generation of electronic waste is estimated between 30 and 50 million tons per year. Between 50 and 80 percent of tech scrap ends up in landfill cities in China or in developing countries like India, Pakistan and Nigeria. The National Institute of Ecology (INE) carried out a study (2007) in which it estimated that the current and future potential generation of electronic waste is between 150,000 to 180,000 tons per year in Mexico for the year 2007, and 550 tons per year in Coahuila.
In recent years there has been a notable increase in this type of waste and it is due to:
- 1. The market is growing rapidly.
- 2. Rapid innovation and planned obsolescence.
- 3. The migration from analog to digital technology.
- 4. The low price of new equipment.
The solution to the problem of electronic waste is not in recycling. The only way to end the problem and stop climate change is to reduce consumption.
It is not necessary that we live without technology or comforts, but it is necessary that we make a change in habits and reevaluate what is truly important. Do you really need to change your cell phone once a year and your computer every 5 years? It makes no sense to be spending and buying more and more things, what we must do is demand that manufacturers make more durable products.
It is important to remember that as consumers we have a shared responsibility regarding the waste we generate.
Failure to assume it has resulted, among other things, in climate change and air, water and soil pollution. However, these problems should not overwhelm us, but we must cooperate with what is within our power.
We must be responsible for our actions when purchasing an electrical or electronic device and ensure that it is recycled in an environmentally sound manner. Remember that recycling electronics recovers valuable materials and as a result reduces greenhouse gases, reduces pollution and saves resources by extracting less materials from the Earth.
Get to know a project they did in Torreón, Coahuila, Mexico, about recycling electronics. For some years now, electronics collection campaigns, talks and workshops have been carried out to raise awareness of the dangers of electronics manufacturing and disposal. If you like the idea, share the video and help publicize the importance of recycling electronics.