How does e-waste affect the environment?
At this time the effects of improper e-waste disposal are not well known, however, the effects that are known have a very real global impact on the earth’s air, water, and soil.
The air pollution impact of e-waste:
Burning e-waste can be used as a disposal method but can also be a way to get to valuable metals such as copper. The problem with this method is that burning can also release pollutants into the air. For instance – when computer monitors and other electronics are burned, they create cancer-producing dioxins that are then released into the air. Yes… that’s the same air that we breathe.
The impact of e-waste on water:
Remember those contaminants we mentioned before? Some of those are heavy metals – Lead, barium, mercury and also lithium (found in mobile phone and computer batteries). When these heavy metals are improperly handled or disposed of via landfill, they can leak into the soil and eventually the groundwater. Picture the groundwater as the first domino waiting to fall. The heavy metals then make their way from the groundwater into streams then ponds, lakes, and rivers. These heavy metals make the water tables toxic and unusable for the communities, animals, and plants that rely on them.
The impact of e-waste on soil:
Though soil is the pathway on which heavy metals find water, it does not go unaffected by these harmful contaminants. E-waste has a very negative impact on the Soil-Crop-Food Pathway. The Soil-Crop-Food Pathway is exactly as it sounds – crops grow in the soil and food comes from the crops. When the soil is contaminated by heavy metals via e-waste the crops, and the food they provide, are also contaminated. This causes many of the illnesses mentioned above and restricts viable farmland for clean food production.