Electronic products have become an integral part of our lives, such that it is difficult to imagine living without all those gadgets which have made life so simple for us. Along with electronic products, even the waste which can be attributed to these products, e-waste to be precise, is growing rapidly and threatening the ecosystem. (The United States of America alone produces 3 million tons of e-waste every year.)
More importantly, the life of electronic goods has come down by a great extent of late. This isn't quite surprising considering that the people's propensity to spend has increased by a great extent over the last few years, and so has the range of electronic goods to choose from. While cell phones are changed on a yearly basis now, the lifespan of televisions and other such consumer durables has come down to two years.
Is e-Cycling the Need of the Hour?
The amount of electronic waste that is being produced every day has raised some serious concerns about the threat that it poses to the environment, and this - in turn, has prompted environmentalists to urge people to opt for recycling of electronic goods. In a specific sense, the term 'e-cycling' refers to the practice of recycling electronic products - such as television, computers, cell phones, microwave ovens, refrigerators, hair dryers, etc., as well as their useful components, which would otherwise end up being dumped into landfills and pollute the environment. In a broad sense however, this term also entails the collection and donation of these products for recycling.
The fact that it keeps environmental pollution at bay is by far the most prominent benefit of recycling electronic waste. As we mentioned earlier, the United States alone produces somewhere around 3 million tons of waste annually. If the e-waste produced by all the countries of the world together is taken into consideration, this 3 million will swell into an unimaginable figure. E-cycling helps to keep a check on the amount of waste produced.
At the same time, it also makes sure that all those hazardous chemicals - such as lead, which are used in electronic products do not pollute the environment. Even dumping these products in landfills is harmful as they mix with ground water and pose a threat to humans and animals alike. Electronic waste doesn't just contain toxic chemicals, but also contains some metals which are relatively rare. If these electronic goods are recycled, it can save us the cost which would otherwise go in mining these rare metals. E-cycling reduces the need of mining new metals, and curbs soil pollution and ground water pollution which can be attributed to this mining process.
As beneficial as the e-cycling process may sound, it does have some issues which have put it under the scanner of late. Manufacturers argue that this process limits the process of innovation by making people stick to the same old stuff which is tweaked to make it slightly better. On the other hand, the critics of this process claim that the companies which carry out recycling of electronic goods tend to cause more harm to the environment than what we believe.
At the same time, the process has also been subjected to some serious allegations with some people alleging that all those companies which collect electronic goods for recycling actually export them to the developing countries, or themselves dump them in the landfills, instead of recycling them. While the United States has some legal provisions restricting the dumping of hazardous electronic goods in place, these are not as good as the e-waste management model followed by the European Union which makes it mandatory for the manufacturers to take the responsibility of recycling their goods and bans the export of goods meant to be recycled.
The latest development in the world of electronics happens to be the initiative taken by the manufacturers to collect and recycle electronic goods for free of cost. Dell started this trend with their free recycling program back in 2006, and was followed by several bigwigs of the industry. While this move from the manufacturers is no doubt a welcome move, we at the grass root level need to understand why we should recycle and do our bit to make sure that the environment is not harmed. If the manufacturers and governments keep coming with recycling plans, but we don't do our bit - we won't make any progress in terms of making our planet safe.