Is E-Waste a Cause of Climate Change?

Earth with one side green and the other side dying including the Sadoff logo 29

Climate change is a topic that is not likely to disappear from normal discourse any time soon. Unfortunately, the causes of climate change are vast. As such, you cannot point the finger in any one direction. Think of it like a car that’s been in a major collision. In order to get that car back on the road, a lot of things have to be fixed and it may require multiple disciplines to get it running again. E-waste is definitely not THE cause of climate change, but is e-waste a cause of climate change?

How Does E-Waste Contribute to Climate Change?

Unfortunately, a lot of garbage gets burned, and though this can have some positive benefits, such as additional electricity for communities and less strain on landfills, when electronics get burned it is very bad.

Not only will burning electronics release a significant amount of CO2, but other toxins can potentially enter the air as well. Some are carcinogenic and can lead to long damage when inhaled over time. If it ends up in the air, it can also end up in the groundwater. Even if you don’t drink it, you may eat produce or animals that do absorb it into their system thereby transferring it to you on consumption.

Read More: Are Old Computers Worth Anything?

Recycling Electronics Can Also Reduce Our Carbon Footprint in Other Ways

Tube TV with lead in itOur modern society relies on electronics more so than ever, and that is not expected to change. Even now, you are reading this on your phone or computer. Electronics have become consumable. We use, get rid of—hopefully by recycling,—and buy new. If we can reduce the amount of new electronics we buy at a macro level through proper recycling and reuse, then we can decrease the amount of new electronics that we need to produce.

Why is that important? Producing electronics actually generates a ton of CO2, and much of this ends up in the atmosphere. It is estimated that when you produce new electronics from recycled components, only 10% of the original CO2 emissions are released in the process.

For example, producing a single CRT monitor can produce 2.9 tons of CO2, but rebuilding a new CRT from recycled components and materials would only generate an additional .29 tons of CO2.

Is it a Good Idea to Donate Old Electronics?

Why Should You Care About E-Waste?

We’ve established that e-waste does play a small role in climate change, but you may say, if it’s small, then why should it matter? Why not fix all the big issues before we worry about e-recycling? The answer here is twofold.

Firstly, the idea that we should only fix the largest cause, or even the top few, is flawed. To fight climate change we should fight it on all fronts to get ourselves back to carbon neutral or even to recapture carbon and other greenhouse pollutants.

Secondly though, and this is a big deal, e-waste is filled with harmful chemicals and toxins. Disposing of e-waste without proper care is going to lead to these harmful pollutants ending up in our landfills and in our air. You may think it’s fine if garbage is in a landfill, but landfills are not always great at keeping those chemicals out of the soil and the water. Do you want more mercury in your drinking water. We don’t think you do.

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