Throwing electronics in the trash is illegal, but we still do so anyway because it is costly and inconvenient to recycle electronics. However, sending e-waste to first world countries is creating a bigger problem. As a third world country, we are suppose to help other underprivileged countries instead of sending them our pollution problems.
As new products are introduced (and disposed of) less frequently, the quantity of e-waste decreases and, even excluding the environmental benefits, social welfare may increase. Consumers pay a higher price for each new product because they anticipate using it for longer, which increases manufacturers' profits. Unfortunately, the common fee-upon-sale types of e-waste regulation fails to incentivize design for recyclability and lower end-of-life cost.
Environmental injustice is the systematic imposition of disproportionate environmental costs and hazards on geographically, culturally, ethnically, or temporally defined groups. Is the e-waste recycling stream a driver of environmental injustice? The positive consequences of electronic waste are greater employment, raw materials, electronic parts, and improved infrastructure within the country’s institutions.
Chen says universal restrictions on disposal of e-waste do not exist. In the U.S., there are no legally enforceable federal policies to regulate e-waste—only a patchwork of legislation in about half of the states. The European Union has federal legislation restricting e-waste disposal and putting much of this responsibility on the device manufacturers.
The majority of the responsibility for recycling electronics should fall upon the manufacturer. Each electronics company should produce and recycle products within their own brand of electornics. This would take the pressure off of polluting first world countries, and would make companies greener.
"Because the brain is in a state of rapid development, the blood-brain barrier in infants and young children is not as effective as in adults, and neurotoxic substances—like heavy metals—can cause developmental damage,” explains Chen.
Workers at e-waste sites are usually migrants from extremely poor areas and are often children. They have little to no access to gloves or face masks and are often too desperate for work or uniformed to care about the health risks. Workers at e-waste sites are prone to skin rashes, cancer, weakening of the immune system, and respiratory, nerve, kidney, and brain damage (3). In China’s Guiyu region, workers have extremely high levels of toxic fire retardants in their bodies and over 80% of the children already have lead poisoning.
Action needs to be taken not only by the U.S. and other developed countries, but also by the developing countries, through the ratification of international treaties and the establishment of stringent domestic legislation. The future of the transboundary e-waste trade thus depends on comprehensive and enforced legislation on both ends of the trade route.
A 2008 report by the Government Accountability Office found the EPA lacking in regulation and enforcement.169 The report was commissioned by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and "found that large amounts of e-waste collected in the United States were still ending up in China and India, and often dismantled" in a manner unsafe to human or environmental health.
Electronic waste is illegal to discard in your trash bin per Public Law 94-580, or the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. If electronic waste is not properly disposed of, it releases harmful chemicals and toxins in not only landfills, but in surrounding communities and ecosystems. The burden of these impacts often disproportionately falls on developing nations, as they tend to receive a large percentage of first-world e-waste material but do not have the resources or regulations to safely process it.
There is no clear definition for electronic waste (e-waste) at this time, but if you can plug it in to an electrical outlet or it contains circuit boards or chips, it is most likely e-waste. These products can contain heavy metals like cadmium, lead, copper, and chromium that can contaminate the environment. DO NOT dispose of these items in the trash or your recycling bins.
Solid waste is a growing problem in this country and has multiple environmental impacts. Waste that is not recycled or composted must be transported to landfills for disposal, and there is also an associated carbon footprint-from the methane generated when waste degrades and the emissions produced through transport.