The downside is the surplus of massed produced e-products that quickly become obsolete and then pile up in our landfills. One UN estimate puts the amount of e-waste produced globally each year at 50 million tons. Just think how much that figure will climb as more consumers enter the market and look to buy bigger and better things.
The truth is, we need to look seriously at ways we can deal with e-waste without simply—excuse the pun—dumping the burden on our ever-expanding landfills. Landfills are just part of an integrated solution as we look for ways to mitigate the effects of e-waste on the environment.
True, a sanitary and well-designed landfill can dramatically help reduce the effects of dangerous chemical substances. I’m the head of a waste management company in Tulsa that owns its own landfill, so I know the vital part landfills can play. There’s no question disposal of e-waste is absolutely safe as long as it can be properly contained and the toxicity significantly reduced. (For example, at American Waste Control we’ve installed the latest technology in liners, a leachate collection system, and an interceptor line around our landfill to protect soil and water).
But, the fact is, much of the problem can and should be effectively addressed even before e-waste reaches that endpoint. It clearly takes a synthesis of all sources including consumers, recyclers and manufacturers, if we’re to solve what is one of the most important waste disposal issues of this generation.
Thanks to the green movement that is really a global phenom, people are becoming increasingly aware of the problems of e-waste and the negative impact it can have on the environment. Not only are consumers beginning to consider how the product is manufactured, they’re looking at the energy it takes to make it, as well as the recyclability of each product before they buy. That’s a really encouraging trend as we move beyond just the disposal side of the equation and effectively utilize consumer purchasing power as well.
Companies within the computer and consumer electronics industries are also slowly beginning to do their part. Many are using greener production techniques, enhancing energy usage and putting a focus on recyclability and reuse of end of life electronics. Companies such as Dell and others even have special buy back programs for certain products to help extend their life and lessen the impact before they’re completely disposed of.
No doubt, the trends addressing e-waste are positive and show an encouraging awareness of the issue. However, we still have to remain diligent if we’re to overcome the growing and damaging effects that e-waste can have. The huge deluge of e-products on the market will only grow stronger as we move forward with ever evolving technologies.
Those of us who are committed to conservation must learn to work together in a global fashion if we’re to meet the challenges and stem the tide. It’s not just a landfill’s concern…it’s up to all of us to continue growing awareness about e-waste and boldly use every resource available to create solid solutions.
Photo credit- JohnJMatlock
About the Author
Tom Hill is the CEO of American Waste Control, Tulsa Recycle and Transfer and American Environmental Landfill along with a member of the Tulsa Master Recyclers Association. Tom’s company recently opened a six million dollar expansion to their recycling facility called Mr. Murph. For the past year, he’s devised and led American Waste’s green recycling initiative, aimed at communicating ways in which Tulsa families and businesses can reduce their waste through recycling to better help the environment. He and his wife, Olivia, have two children and live in Tulsa, OK.