 What is electronic trash?

Electronic waste is all those electrical or electronic products that have been discarded or discarded, such as: telephones, televisions, computers, appliances…When talking about technological waste is included from this type of equipment to refrigerators, air conditioners, music players or light bulbs. Technological trash is, in short, any artifact of human creation that, in order to be used, requires the use of electricity, either to make it work or to fulfill its function by supplying energy.

 

 

 Causes

                  -Programmed obsolescence:

The programmed obsolescence is the forced expiration date of the technological equipment, which is programmed consciously by the companies in order to force the buyer to have to acquire new equipment after a certain time after the purchase.

                  -Perceived obsolescence:

The perceived obsolescence refers to the consumer, and occurs when the consumer feels that technological equipment that he bought must be changed because it has become outdated.

                  -Social projection:

In this case, the objective is not directly to have new equipment, but to obtain a social image favored by the fact of having it. 

 

 Consequences

                  -Release of heavy metals in ecosystems:

The most harmful consequence of the generation of technological waste that is not adequately treated is the release of heavy metals and highly polluting elements in the environment. Some of these elements are mercury, lead, chromium, aluminum or cadmium, which, lead to very serious diseases or even death.

                  -Pollution on land, water and air:

Another consequence of the generation of this technological waste is that the contamination extends both to the land and to the water, as well as to the air, since, when the equipment is burned, they release many of the heavy metals already mentioned in the form of high toxicity gases.

                  -Diseases related to heavy metals:

In relation to the release of this type of metals in any media, these heavy metals enter the organism of living beings and can not be eliminated. This is because they are metals that are not present in ecosystems in a natural way, so the organisms of living beings have not evolved to expel them. In fact, these heavy metals, once they enter the body of a living organism, will remain within it for the rest of their lives. In the case of humans, some of the diseases that are related to this type of metals toxic to health are Alzheimer’s and degenerative diseases of the nervous system, chronic fatigue, heart disease, dermatitis, anemia, asthma and respiratory tract irritation, arthritis, osteoporosis, diseases in the endocrine system, impotence, malformations in the fetus during pregnancy, kidney failure, liver problems and even cancer.

                  -Technological landfills:

Likewise, another problem that involves the huge generation of technological waste lies in the inability to manage this waste. The consequence is that this garbage accumulates in technological landfills that, in addition to contaminating the local area, carry the risk of extending its contamination radius in the event that a fire takes place and the toxic elements enter the air.

Placing this type of waste in the trash is putting at risk the health of people and the environment, because they contain dangerous components.

Environmental and health risks are particularly alarming in developing countries, the final destination of a large amount of waste that comes from developed countries. Besides contaminating the environment, it causes DNA damage and cancer, as well as inflammation and oxidative stress, leading to cardiovascular diseases.

 E-waste in the world

According to The Global E-waste Monitor, a report published by the United Nations University, the International Telecommunication Union and the International Solid Waste Association, humanity generated 44.7 million metric tons of e-waste in 2016, which is equivalent to 6.1 kilograms per person.

Just 20% of e-waste was properly recycled in 2016. The vast majority (80%) was undocumented, likely to be dumped, traded or recycled under inferior conditions. “The world’s e-waste problem continues to grow. Improved measurement of e-waste is essential to set and monitor targets, and identify policies,” commented Jakob Rhyner, Vice-Rector of the United Nations University. “Existing global and regional estimates based on production and trade statistics do not adequately cover the health and environmental risks of unsafe treatment and disposal through incineration or landfilling.”

As this chart illustrates, China and the United States generated the highest amount of e-waste in 2016.

E-waste in Europe

Although in terms of volume, the United States and China, account for 32% of global electronic waste, are countries such as Norway that have a higher ratio of electronic garbage per capita: Norway generates 28.3 kilograms per inhabitant, Switzerland 26.3 kg and Iceland 26.3 kg.

Spain, on the other hand, generated 17.7 kilograms of electronic garbage per inhabitant in 2014; and other neighboring countries, such as Italy and France, generated 17.6 and 22.1 kilograms respectively.

E-waste in Spain

Spain is the fifth European country that generates more “electronic scrap”, a total of 930,000 tons every year, which means an average of 20 kilos per person, according to the Global E-waste Monitor report of the United Nations University.

According to the study, this amount represents an increase of 17% compared to the figures of four years ago and 43% compared to eight years ago, so the volume of waste electrical and electronic equipment has grown in Spain to a rhythm three times higher than the average urban waste.

It is an alarming fact due to the consequences that this type of waste can have for the environment and the health of people. In addition, the forecasts suggest that this figure will continue to grow in the coming years.

However, the report of Cetelem Observatory on consumption in Spain in 2017, indicates that citizens are increasingly “more aware” of the importance of making responsible use of these electronic items, which already rank second among the most sustainable products.

According to data provided by the Spanish Federation of Appliances Merchants, in the last year the recycling of electrical and electronic waste has increased, reaching 33,925,588 kilos.