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E-Waste Is More Important Than You Realized
According to the United Nations, 50 million tons of electronic waste — old devices or electronics that have broken or stopped working — are created each year, with 120 million tons predicted by 2050. What impact does so much waste have on the environment and human health?
Not surprising, there are many negative impacts of e-waste — for instance, trashed electronics are hosts to tons of precious metals that could potentially run out within the next century if changes are not made. The UN notes that there is possibly as much as 7% of the world's gold sitting in this ever-growing e-waste.
Health problems are also an issue, with people from developing countries suffering from informal recycling methods, many of which involve exposure to toxic substances from the burning of e-waste. In Guiyu, a city in China with the largest amount of e-waste recycling in the world, 80% of the children there suffer from respiratory diseases due to these practices.
There are many ways that the current system could be overhauled to become more sustainable. As the UN states, solutions range from designing products to be more durable to better recycling programs to buy-back initiatives and “urban mining” to extract metals from the mountains of waste that already exist.