If you’re like most people today, you likely spend most of your day using electronics. This has become such a common part of our lives that you might not even notice just how many electronics you interact with on a regular day. Most of us are very comfortable using technology, although we might not have a good understanding of what our devices actually contain. We aren’t expected to understand how any of the devices in our lives work, but we all need to educate ourselves on how to use them safely. 

Disposing of electronics like regular garbage is extremely harmful to our environment, but it continues to happen every day. Here are five environmental effects of e-waste that you might not realize. 

Toxins Contaminate Soil

One of the most obvious ways that e-waste affects the environment is through soil. Contaminated soil is a huge concern, as it can be incredibly easy to spread after that. Thomas Woznicki, president of Combined Resources, Inc, explains “One thing many people don’t realize is that e-waste, when not properly recycled, can have harmful effects on animals and wildlife. When toxins from improperly processed e-waste leach into soil, they can contaminate groundwater which can cause neurological damage to animals who drink that water. Aquatic wildlife can also suffer from toxic waste as a result of improper e-waste disposal.” By contaminating the soil with dangerous chemicals, we create the risk of poisoning everything around it. 

Water Pollution

After it’s contaminated the soil, toxins can eventually make their way into nearby water. Marine biologist and chief editor at Water-Pollution Casper Ohm says “The issue with electronics is that they contain toxic metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury, all of which are bad for the environment. The way they end up in the water supply is through a process called bioleaching, where the metals gradually leach out of where they were disposed, leaking into neighboring environments. When organisms consume this metal, it’s stored in trace amounts, accumulating over time, and then passed up the food chain.”

Damage to the Atmosphere

While contaminating water and soil is a huge concern when it comes to e-waste, toxins can also release into the air. E-waste is harmful enough on its own, but when electronics are disposed of incorrectly, they often end up being burned, which only makes them more dangerous. This exposes those in the area to the toxins in the air, but it quickly and easily spreads far beyond that. When these toxins are released into the air, they can travel for miles. This can lead to multiple people being forced to breathe in contaminated air, which can lead to further problems, such as respiratory concerns. 

Drain on Resources

Electronic devices are so commonplace that we often don’t realize how valuable they are. Many of the electronics you use each day use precious metals, of which there is a limited supply in the world. When electronics are tossed away and not recycled, these valuable resources are completely wasted when they could have been reused. When new products are created, we need to again find these materials, which won’t always be available to us once we use them all up. Mining these materials often puts workers at risk as well, making it even more important to recycle existing electronics. 

Josh Prigge, owner of the sustainability consulting firm Sustridge, explains some of the concerns of e-waste, “We’re not only talking about the economic value that could be recovered and the new minerals and precious metals that wouldn’t need to be extracted from Earth if we reused what already exists, but what about all the energy and water used to create the once glorious iPhones and laptops in the first place? Most electronic products like the iPhone are in use for a short 12 -18 months before being discarded and upgraded to the newest model.” By recycling these products responsibly, we can help make it easier to create new ones going forward, rather than draining resources and energy to create them from scratch. 

Health Issues in Humans and Wildlife

Of course, when so much of our environment has been negatively affected by e-waste, it will eventually start to affect us. Although we may be far away from where our e-waste goes, it can eventually catch up with us. As it’s in our food and water, exposure to these toxins can lead to health issues for humans and animals. While this can affect all of us via water and the foods we eat, those living in underdeveloped areas that take on the world’s e-waste are especially at risk. Casper Ohm comments “Humans are at the top of this food chain, which is why the toxic metals from e-waste which starts as a simple battery-leak on a crushed iPhone, to the grilled fish on your plate many years later. As the metals spread through the water supply, they will end up inside fish and also in your local produce. Vegetables soak up everything from the water they are given, so trace amounts of metals can be found on them as well.”

We can dramatically cut back the effect that e-waste has on our environment by recycling and repurposing our old electronics. Contact NewTech Recycling today to properly dispose of your old, broken, or unwanted electronic devices.