with suchira karusala
The Risk Behind Evolving Technology
very couple of years, many early adopters look to upgrade their phones. With 30 new cameras, 10 new colors and automated technology, it seems like a natural step. But what happens to their retired phones? Some participate in a trade program. Some sell them on eBay. But most throw these phones away. Technology has become an essential in the modern world, and it is only continuing to integrate into every aspect of our lives. However, the usage span of these devices is declining, causing many old devices to be thrown away, just to be replaced with a new one that is only slightly more efficient. With the growing demand in the technological industry, companies often disregard the gruesome environmental impact they bring upon the world. Since the demand is increasing, the prices are decreasing. Now, half of all households in the world have internet access, and 7.7 billion people have cell phones. This, of course, is a statistic to be celebrated, as more people can now be more educated and connected than ever. That being said, this calls for us to be proactive in minimizing its effect on the world. The average device is composed of gold, silver, lithium, platinum, palladium and other valuable elements. These materials can be reclaimed upon recycling, but most of them are not even given the chance for examination. Up to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are generated annually, and only 20% of it are properly recovered. These hazardous components, which are extremely detrimental to
health and the environment, are dumped into landfills where toxic chemicals can end up contaminating the water supply, slowly destroying ecosystems. Fortunately, there is a solution: electronic recycling. Mining materials cost way more than recovering materials through the urban mining of e-waste. E-recycling is practiced both informally and formally. The formal side of it entails fully disassembling the electronics, categorizing contents by material and then cleaning them. The items are sorted by shredding with advanced technologies under careful health and safety guidelines for workers to minimize environmental hazards of handling this waste. Unfortunately, this can add up to a large price tag, causing several companies to illegally export their ewaste to developing countries where informal recycling is practiced. There, workers recover valuable materials by dismantling devices by hand and burning away the nonvaluable materials. Mercury and acids are used to recover the gold, posing many hazards. Also, informal recycling has many security risks because it does not require wiping devices clear of data like U.S. recyclers do. Criminals can search these devices for previously saved credit card information or sell personal details to information agencies. The demand for technology is only going to rise, and the use of electronics will escalate accordingly. The negative health, environmental and security repercussions can not be taken lightly. Manufacturers, corporations and lawmakers need to take responsibility to minimize e-waste around the world. It is important to protect our health and safety and take community action to engage in formal recycling now.
SUCHIRA KARUSALA IS A COPPELL HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR AND THE CO-FOUNDER OF ELECTROCYCLE, ALONG WITH SOUTHLAKE CARROLL SENIOR JESSICA YANG.
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40 • OCT 20