You don’t watch movies on a VCR player, do you? You don’t use the same phone you were using two years ago either. You probably change the refrigerator every 10 years or so. Modern consumerism and the global economy are designed to generate more waste than ever. Instead, of throwing away your old refrigerator, you can get it fixed by a professional by searching for “refrigerator repair near me”. Let’s check how waste produced by home appliances affects the environment.
1. Air quality – Home appliances create a lot of e-waste that has adverse effects on the environment. The air you breathe is contaminated by this e-waste when it is informally disposed of by shredding, melting, or dismantling the appliance. Such processes release dust particles and toxins like dioxins into the air. When you breathe in this air, it can cause respiratory issues. Moreover, most e-waste isn’t even processed properly. Most e-waste that doesn’t have any valuable materials or require an extraction method that’s too expensive are simply burnt off.
When e-waste is burnt, it creates fine cancer-causing particles that can travel thousands of miles from the landfill or junkyard and reach cities or clean neighborhoods. Apart from cancer, breathing in those particles can also develop chronic diseases. They endanger your health, and your pets aren’t spared either.
On the other hand, when electronic devices and home appliances have higher value materials like silver and gold, they are removed with acids, by desoldering, and with the use of other toxic chemicals processes. If these facilities aren’t properly managed, they release harmful fumes into the air and can travel thousands of miles away from recycling centers. Apart from polluting the environment, these fumes are very dangerous for people who handle such wastes and can shave away several years from their lifespan.
2. Soil contamination – Waste from your household appliances doesn’t just pollute the air. They also contaminate the soil. When e-waste is improperly disposed of in landfills or dumped illegally at various sensitive sites, they release flame retardants and heavy metals that seep into the soil. Apart from destroying the soil and the delicate microbial ecosystem, this kind of waste can also contaminate the groundwater. The contaminated soil and groundwater make their way to crops that are grown nearby.
Moreover, when the soil gets contaminated by heavy metals crops become vulnerable and absorb these toxins. When that contaminated crop makes its way to your plate, you may develop many illnesses. Moreover, since the soil is contaminated and its fertility takes a hit, the farm doesn’t remain as productive as well. It leads to a chain of events that affect the environment, your health, and the economy in many negative ways.
The amount of soil that’s contaminated by waste from household electronics is also very alarming. It depends on a multitude of factors ranging from soil type and composition to pH levels and temperature. The pollutants can simply sit in the soil for an extended period of time can destroy the beneficial microorganisms living in the soil. Ultimately wild animals relying on food will consume the plants growing on that contaminated soil and develop long-term health issues or have their population reduced. This can have drastic chain effects on delicate ecosystems.
3. Water contamination – As mentioned above, waste from household appliances and electronic devices doesn’t just pollute the air and soil. They also contaminate water. Heavy metals like lithium, lead, mercury, and barium are released from those wastes and seep into the soil till they reach and contaminate groundwater. From there, these heavy metals can make their way to streams, ponds, rivers, and lakes. This leads to toxification and acidification of those water bodies. Animals, plants, and entire communities that rely on those sources of water have their access to fresh drinking water completely revoked.
Even animals, plants, and communities that are very far from such contaminated sources of water get affected indirectly. Acidification of water is a very serious issue that kills healthy aquatic animals and marine life. They destroy biodiversity and can bring great harm to ecosystems. If acidified water makes its way to water supplies that humans depend on, it can wreak havoc to the point where recovery becomes a distant dream.
4. Effects on humans – As mentioned above waste from household electronics contains toxic chemicals and compounds like cadmium, lead, mercury, lithium, and even flame retardants. When these chemicals and toxic compounds enter the human system, they affect almost every organ including your heart, kidneys, liver, and brain. They can also affect your entire skeletal system.
The issue gets even more serious when these chemicals and compounds damage the nervous system and reproductive systems and increase mental health issues while declining the birth rates of entire communities. Improper disposal of e-waste damages the global environment and governments need to take appropriate actions to deter such practices. In the long term, it also negatively affects the global economy.
5. Lack of proper recycling – Most household appliances are deliberately made to last fewer years to keep the cost down. This creates more waste. Moreover, when such products are made from cheap materials, they lose their value in the recycling facilities.
If extracting valuable materials out of those waste products becomes extremely difficult and expensive, the recyclers don’t have any financial incentive to process that waste. Hence that waste is burnt off. Apart from toxic chemicals burning of such waste also releases high volumes of carbon emissions and greenhouse gases that contribute further to rising global temperatures, climate disasters, and acidification of the ocean.
You can’t become a monk and suddenly give up all your home appliances that make your life so convenient. That’s impractical. However, you can reduce the waste generated by your home appliances and electronic devices by getting them fixed and getting more mileage out of them. For instance, if you have a broken refrigerator, you can hire a technician to fix it for you by searching for “refrigerator repair near me”.