E-Waste and Its Toll on the Environment
Environmental concerns have taken center stage in many industries over the last decade, and technology is no different. Most commonly referred to as “e-waste,” electronic waste is considered any electronic device at the end of its life destined for refurbishment, reuse, resale, recycling, or, most often - disposal. According to the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), nearly 40 million tons of global electronic waste is produced every year - of which only about 13% is recycled. As technology and innovation continue to rise and take hold in our communities, the threat to the environment, humans, and animals will need to be carefully considered - with systems and initiatives put in place to curb or eliminate the imminent risks at hand.
The Challenges of E-Waste
When electronics are discarded to landfills and waste sites improperly, the environmental impacts can be significant. Electronics contain a laundry list of toxic substances that are not only harmful to the environment - but humans and animals as well. These toxic chemicals include high amounts of lead, mercury, and cadmium - just to name a few. Once an electronic device enters a waste site, natural elements like UV rays, heat, and moisture begin to degrade the materials, slowly but surely releasing the chemicals into the environment. These chemicals have the potential to reach various destinations, including the soil, waterways, and the atmosphere - all of which pose a severe risk to the environment and the ecosystems within it.
Here’s a closer look at just how these substances are making their way into the natural world:
Much of the world’s e-waste ends up in countries that lack the infrastructure to deal with it in an environmentally friendly manner. Once the waste reaches these destinations, it’s often taken apart and scrapped for parts and then burned in “waste areas.” The damage to environmental and human health is evident, and the communities surrounding the world’s most prominent waste disposal sights are suffering. Multiple studies conducted in Guiyu, China - the most significant e-waste recycling location worldwide - show substantial effects on the residents, with over 80% of the children experiencing respiratory problems, along with a severe risk of lead poisoning through atmospheric inhalation.
When electronics reach a waste site and degrade over time, rainwater becomes the driving factor that transports the chemicals throughout the environment. When the chemicals reach ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams, they are easily transported over long distances - often reaching the oceans and seas. Not only are surface water resources compromised, but groundwater resources are at high risk as well - posing even further risk to local communities who use the water daily. When groundwater is used for agricultural irrigation, it furthers the spread of toxic substances, polluting the crops and the entire surrounding environment.
Of the most immediate destinations that degraded e-waste affects is the soil on which the waste site sits. Once a chemical enters the ground, it undergoes processes that allow it to leach with water movement or stay put with the soil particles. Even when the chemicals remain in place with the soil, the soil health in waste areas will degrade over time - eventually eroding and transporting the chemicals or polluting the ground beyond any hope for future use and productivity.
Looking Forward With Teracube
One of the biggest challenges we face is the overall amount of e-waste we generate on a global scale. Of the most prominent factors driving up the amount of e-waste is the rapidly changing technological scene. As technology advances and old devices become obsolete, the amount of discarded electronics grows. To positively impact how we handle and dispose of e-waste, we have to look internally at how the industry produces electronics. Large and small companies alike will need to come together and forge a more sustainable path forward, with strategies that look to eliminate single-use electronics and usher in a new age of technology.
Teracube is a company at the forefront of the tech-environmental movement, offering smartphone products that contribute to a sustainable production path. Teracube smartphones are engineered to exceed the lifespan of other phones, offering a warranty-backed 4-year minimum lifespan - contributing to the overall solution of e-waste. Teracube smartphones are engineered using eco-friendly materials sourced with fair-trade practices, making sure the environmentally friendly products don’t come with human sacrifice. The phones are engineered with a modular design, allowing for replacement and repair of just the compromised component so that e-waste is kept to a minimum. Everything from the phone case to the battery to the screen protector is biodegradable so that when your phone does eventually reach a waste site, it won’t have negative impacts on the surrounding environment. Teracube hopes to set an example of just how technology products can be profitable and environmentally sustainable. As a final bonus, Teracube is planting a tree for every device sold - helping to offset our manufacturing carbon footprint.