E-waste: Where techno trash is going?

This week my Ipod crashed down; completely. It doesn’t work anymore, it’s trash. I took the pieces and put them into the garbage receptacle as any other waste. Mom was watching what I did, so she took out the pieces from the garbage and then put them inside another bag. Finally she said: “It’s e-waste, son. It’s special trash. You can’t mix it with food“.

¿E-waste? I didn’t know that word. For a minute, I got freeze… I mean, Mom doesn’t know nothing about technology, but she loves ecology and all about recycling habits, so she knows exactly how to classify  any kind of garbage; including technological garbage. This is the first time Mom knows more than me about my own gadgets. Awesome!

Immediately I ran to my room, to start my research of everything about techno trash: What is it? Why we shouldn’t mix it with the “normal” trash? How it must be processed? So, let me tell you what I found out:

1. Quoting from Wikipedia: “Electronic waste, “e-waste” or “Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment” (“WEEE“) is a type of waste consisting of any broken or unwanted electrical or electronic device”. The list of examples is very long: TVs, DVDs, Cell phones, Computers (laptops and desktops), Ipods, Video Game Consoles, you name it… yes, I know, all the devices we use every day :O

2. The issue that makes e-waste a special kind of trash is the set of materials it’s made of: I’m talking about minerals; NOT biodegradable components. Here is the list of some of them: Lead, tin, copper, silicon, beryllium, carbon, iron, aluminum, americium, antimony, arsenic, barium, bismuth, boron, cobalt, europium, gallium, germanium, gold, indium, lithium, manganese, nickel, niobium, palladium, platinum, rhodium, ruthenium, selenium, silver, tantalum, terbium, thorium, titanium, vanadium, and yttrium. Well, this is not the complete list, but I guess you already get a good idea of what I’m talking about.

As you must know, organic material doesn’t represent a danger for natural resources, relatively (of course), I mean, with time they get dissolved or decomposed in their basic elements but minerals can be very destructive for animal life and rivers, for example: just one cell phone can contain so many toxics as thirty five cars… thirty five! can you believe this? well, it’s true.
Now, think for a moment about cities garbage deposits. If e-waste goes there, soon or later, it’s going to find some water resource: either a river or an underground water deposit. In any case, this water will find the sea or even worse: the city aqueduct closer to you.
So, finally, e-waste isn’t just a problem for wild life (a big problem by itself), but a direct deadly risk for humans.

I guess you had heard to someone say: “Don’t throw your cell phone battery to the garbage!“. Well, it’s about the same problem, e-waste contains very, very toxic materials. So, next time you take out your trash, please, check what’s in the bag before😉

3. E-waste requires a special treatment based on recycling processes of its basic components (all the elements I listed above). Curiously, at least for me, all the material collected from this techno trash, returns to factories as commodity to make new electronic devices. In other words, e-waste isn’t garbage at all, is a useful resource for industries and finally: a business. Yes, there are many companies dedicated to process e-waste, companies interested in collecting all your damaged devices, all those that surely seem like trash for you. So, if you have unwanted electronic devices in your house, and wanna throw them away, please, look for some recycling company in your city and contact them, they can help you to get rid all the e-waste in a pretty clean way.

Well, today I learned a lot of new things… I love days like this. I thought I knew all the basics about computers and gadgets, but now I realize that’s impossible, always there’s a new thing to learn, to discover and sometimes, the new lesson can be so simple that you feel you know nothing. Thanks Mom for this pretty valuable lesson.

All I know is that I know nothing“. Socrates

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