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E-Waste and Its Effect on Sustainability

Electronic waste or e-waste is a term referring to electronic appliances that are being discarded at the end of their life cycle. Computers, screens, TV sets, fax machines, copiers and stereos are some of the most common types of e-waste. Many large companies have started their campaigns to address e-waste and increase sustainability. Dell is one of the pioneers in the niche and its approach is quite effective.

How E-Waste has been Handled in the Past? There has been some controversy stemming from the manner in which e-waste was handled in the past. Many companies that produced substantial amounts of e-waste shipped old equipment and parts that were no longer working to developing countries. This practice was unregulated and connected to a wide range of risks for people involved in the recycling process. E-waste is often composed of harmful substances like cadmium, lead and beryllium. It is also growing exponentially because of the excessive reliance on technological solutions and the modernization of hi-tech processes. These two factors combined to make the old e-waste disposal methods both inefficient and dangerous. The New Solution Dell has always opposed the manner in which e-waste is being handled but the company has now come up with a new solution with its partners in African countries. The program is first of its kind and it involves the construction of an e-waste handling facility under the name of East Africa Compliant Recycling. There will be 40 e-waste collection points across the East African region. The people employed at these points will have the proper training to handle e-waste in a safe and efficient manner. The structure and the control connected to the creation of the facility will make the handling and the recycling of e-waste much safer and more environment-friendly. The solution is just being implemented and the manner in which it will affect e-waste collection and sustainability is yet to be assessed. Is E-Waste Such a Big Problem? As already mentioned, the amount of e-waste produced by Western society has seen an exponential growth over the past few years. Keeping the waste’s dangerous nature in mind, proper management is essential. The United States alone generated more than 3.4 million tons of e-waste in 2011, Forbes reported. Only 25 percent of the electronic waste produced by the country was recycled successfully. Statistics about the exact amount of e-waste produced globally are missing but according to estimates, the figure ranges anywhere between 20 and 50 million tons. Recycling is vitally important because of the incredible materials that can be extracted from old electronic appliances. Some of these materials include gold, silver, palladium and copper.

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As the world is becoming more and more technology-dependent, it will have to address the issue of accumulating amounts of electronic waste. The facility that Dell planned and opened in Africa is just one of the possibilities. E-waste is going to become an even bigger issue in time and large-scale recycling and disposal solutions will have to be developed soon.

© Renee.