Problems Computer Recycling Today
Worldwide computer sales are at their all time high with around two hundred million units sold each year around the world, this is about seven hundred thousand laptops and PC’s a day! According to Space Daily this number is expected to double about year two thousand and ten. So what are we doing with all the computers that are old and what is happening with all the hazardous materials from our computers that the informational age is based upon? The problem is staggering considering that there are no laws or information on safe computer recycling in most of the world.
Computer is composed almost entirely of non recyclable materials, some of which even are hazardous not only to the environment but also to humans. Circuit Boards which make up all of the important parts of computers have a lot of lead that makes up the solder that is used to solder the components in place. Cadmium is used excessively in contacts and switches in old laptops that used NiCd batteries and the inhalation of cadmium oxide has severe adverse effects on the human respiratory system. Mercury is used in flat screen monitors and can enter water bodies and do a considerable amount of damage to the environment. Bromine which also is present on motherboards and other printed circuit boards in the form of TBBPA (tetrabromobisphenol a) has been shown to intervene with the animal body development which is linked to impaired memory function. A lot more materials are considered toxic inside an ordinary house computer and when a person thinks their computer is just too old or broken they just toss it in a dump instead of properly disposing of these dangerous materials.
Many profitable businesses have sprung up around the United States that deal with electronic waste and remove profitable materials out of old computers. Copper is abundantly used in electronics for low resistive wiring and cooling of components that produce a lot of heat during their operation. Copper is melted with the rest of the PCB (printed circuit board) then it is collected and sold for a fair amount of money to companies that require it. One of the problems with this kind of business is that they do not do anything with the rest of the PCB which contains most of the toxic materials mentioned before. Another profitable metal that is extracted from computers is aluminum which makes up most of the computer cases and support structures inside computer towers and monitors etc. These businesses do what they can but certainly that is not enough to stop this problem on a global scale.
One of the greatest concerns comes from dumping very hazardous parts like old PC monitors which contain a whole cocktail of dangerous chemicals that can really harm the environment and the animals that live in it. Large computer dumps have sprung up all around the world emphasizing the necessity for a supervised and funded large scale operation to recycle old electronics. This should yield a wealth of materials that can be fed back into the manufacturing corporations for profit that will yield some profit as well. So the initial cost of this global operation will be great but there is a return on this investment with a cleaner earth and some money that will be obtained from the sale of raw materials.
One of the prime examples of what can happen if this problem is not addressed with proper attention soon is what kind of an affect this problem is having right now on Asia. This crisis is righteously called the Hi-Tech Trashing of Asia and is a major concern for the environmental groups everywhere. Third world countries that cannot afford adequate recycling plants are releasing toxic ingredients such as lead, mercury and cadmium straight into the environment. In these countries the plastic is simply burned off not melted off the copper, this is very unhealthy for our environment because plastic releases countless harmful gases into the atmosphere. In countries like China, Pakistan and India people without proper equipment deal and process huge quantities of obsolete computers that are shipped directly from United States of America. These countries completely ignore the simple fact that monitors contain lead and even worse very toxic sulfur dust when workers use hammers to smash the monitors to get to the copper on the inside. This kind of disregard for personal and environmental safety occurs every day.
The need for an organized and controlled way of recycling obsolete computers has to be put on a much higher priority level than it is now. Even a little will help because with research it is clear that at this moment proper recycling of computer parts is absent. Rules for proper disposal exist only in rich countries so most of the waste is shipped off to other countries in which it is dealt with in an improper ways. If this kind of mistreatment to our planet continues we might hit a point at which the clean-up will be almost impossible and the cost unfeasible. Everybody who is throwing away any electronics especially computers should contact their local recycling center to find out about proper locations and ways to recycle PC’s.
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