So much so that in 2010 Americans alone spent over $42.8 million on just mobile devices, a number that is expected to reach as high as $1.8 billion by 2015.(1) In a practical sense, electronics and technological advancements have been a wonderful blessing as they continue to bring us all closer together, all while enhancing our ability to connect and share information like never before. So preoccupied by our use of them, many of us never take the time to think of what happens to our electronic waste (e-waste) after we dispose of it to move on to the next model. Unfortunately the reality of what happens to much of our e-waste is a tough one to swallow, and filmmaker Chris Caliman perfectly depicts it in his powerful short documentary ‘Sodom and Gomorrah – Digital Dumping Ground In Ghana.’ Check it out: Agbogbloshie is said to be only one of many ‘Digital Dumping Grounds’ stationed throughout the world, with most believed to be in Africa. As the video states, the impact that these areas are having on the people that occupy them is not only unhealthy but also potentially fatal, especially to children and teens, many of which are clearly depicted in the video footage. In an attempt to combat e-waste, several African nations have stepped up to demand tougher and more strictly enforced laws to prohibit or limit digital dumping -especially of electronic devices that contain heavy toxic components.
The European Union did take steps in 2012 to strengthen its export laws but the practice still continues both legally and illegally to this day. (2) According to TechWeek Europe, the onus for digital dumping largely lies upon the manufacturers as research shows that most environmental damage from electronics occurs during the production stage. (3) The technology is not designed to last long, ultimately creating more electronic waste which is clearly not disposed of in a civil manner. Despite this, there are some things that we can do as the consumer to help do our part in combating digital dumping.
The easiest is to help build awareness by sharing both this article and the video put together by Chris Caliman. Awareness may seem like a small step, but it is a step nonetheless, a step that reminds us all to think beyond our consumption and to make more conscious choices both in the purchasing and disposal stage. Many cities offer programs and facilities specifically designed to better dispose of electronic waste. I’m sure these practices can also be heavily scrutinized and are likely miles away from being the best option possible, but they are certainly a smarter choice than disposing of electronics in the most convenient way: through our ordinary garbage. Sources: (1) http://griffintechnology.com/blog/fun/mind-blowing-cellphone-statistics/ (2) http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2013/aug/09/africa-europe-digital-electronic-waste (3) http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/news/onus-on-manufacturers-to-stop-digital-dumping-15332 .
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