E-Hazards: Manifest Tragedy
By Eric C. Lipsky
As technology continues to progress and the lifespan of consumer electronics continues to shorten, there is a significant problem that society is left to ponder: e-waste. The steady influx of new technologies being adopted by more people presents the challenge of what to do with the old electronics. When these electronics end up in landfills and are improperly recycled, they jeopardize the well-being of the individuals involved and of the environment around them. It would be naïve to think the problems caused by these obsolete electronics stop with the country producing the waste or that it is a contained problem.
In 2012, there were 1.75 billion cell phones sold worldwide, with 166.9 million sold in the United States alone. According to Gartner, Inc., sales of worldwide devices (PCs, tablets and mobile phones) “are on pace to total 2.4 billion units in 2013, a 9 percent increase from 2012.” Coupled with these numbers is a projected 69.8 percent increase in tablet shipments over 2012, or roughly 197 million more tablets introduced into the e-mix.
These sales numbers are staggering—especially when considering that the average cell phone replacement cycles in the United States, United Kingdom and South Korea are 21.7, 22.4, and 26.9 months, respectively. These numbers in conjunction with the declining lifespans of computers and televisions become a significant problem if the e-waste that they become is mishandled. The problems created by these end-of-life electronics do not merely disappear when they are sent away, but often this is when they begin.
The health implications of the toxic materials released by these electronics can be severe. Oftentimes it can result in ailments that impact the health and livelihood of not only those directly exposed, but of those that indirectly come into contact with the materials as well.Pollution, for instance, can increase the need for respiratory therapy among inhabitants of an affected area.
The infographic below explores the shrinking product cycles of electronic devices, the mounting challenge of hazardous e-waste, and how various governments, schools and professionals are becoming involved.
“Gartner Says Worldwide Mobile Phone Sales Declined 1.7 Percent in 2012,” Gartner, 2013
“With 18M iPhones sold during Q4, Apple outsells Samsung in the U.S.,” GigaOM, 2013
“Gartner Says Worldwide PC, Tablet and Mobile Phone Combined Shipments to Reach 2.4 Billion Units in 2013,” Gartner, 2013
For a complete list of sources, please view the infographic.