E-Waste and Climate Change

Knowledge of greenhouse gases and their ability to artificially heat the earth emerged in the late 1800s. Experiments performed by forward-thinking scientists suggested that factory-produced CO2 could possibly form a type of insulating blanket over the Earth. A century later, those early findings are proving to be accurate and consequential to the fate of the planet. But is electronic waste contributing to the rate of climate change?

Greenhouse Gases and Global Warming

Five greenhouse gases are primarily responsible for climate change:

  • Water vapor
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
  • Methane (CH4)
  • Ozone (O3)

A greenhouse gas is any gas that absorbs and traps heat from sunlight. When atmospheric and oceanic temperatures deviate significantly from past average temperatures due to excessive greenhouse gases, scientists refer to this as the “greenhouse effect“.

The Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century initiated the creation of what would eventually become millions of coal-burning factories in the U.S. Although most industries are finally making the transition to greener energy sources, it did not happen soon enough. Consequently, we are contending with severe climate change that has not only increased global temperatures but is causing frequent, catastrophic weather events.

In addition to chemical emissions discharged from factories and gas-powered automobiles, we now have another problem that is contributing to global warming–electronic waste (ewaste).

Climate Change and Improper Disposal of Ewaste

Tossing electronics like laptops, tablets and cellphones into the trash instead of taking them to be recycled is contributing to the acceleration of the Earth’s temperature. One way unrecycled ewaste increases greenhouse gas levels is because the raw materials needed to make electronics must be re-manufactured.

Many factories producing metals needed to construct digital devices rely on energy sources that exacerbate global warming. Recycling ewaste can significantly reduce energy consumption because these facilities do not have to produce metals. Instead, recycled ewaste metals are sent to manufacturers to be incorporated in new electronic products. This means less demand for fossil fuel energy and decreasing emissions of greenhouse gases by manufacturing facilities.

Open incineration of ewaste further worsens the global warming crisis. In addition to metals, most electronic devices contain various glass and plastics. When burned, these materials emit gases that further deteriorate the ozone layer and boost greenhouse gas activity.

What Will Happen If Climate Change Isn’t Reversed?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it is still possible to reduce global temperatures enough to prevent the most serious risks of climate change from impacting our environment. However, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences states: “limiting greenhouse gas emissions to stabilize world temperatures will demand significant departures from current energy production and uses”.

Relying more on wind, solar, nuclear and biofuels rather than fossil fuels is essential for slowing the progression of global warming. Proper disposal and recycling of ewaste should also be consciously practiced by everyone to help stop large-scale environmental catastrophes from destroying people’s homes and livelihoods.

Additionally, other methods for reducing the severity of climate change are actively being investigated by the U.S. and the European Union. For example, geoengineering techniques such as ocean-seeding and releasing reflective particles in the upper atmosphere that reflect UV rays back into outer space are currently being considered.

Help Save the Earth by Recycling Ewaste

Potomac eCycle is here to help you dispose of your ewaste properly and without contributing to the global warming disaster. Not only does ecycling reduce the amount of chemical emissions from metal-processing facilities, it also ensures sensitive data is completely destroyed and permanently inaccessible.

Potomac eCycle is a certified RIOS recycler and a dedicated member of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI). We provide pick-up assistance for ewaste to facilitate disposal of your discarded electronics safely and properly. Contact us today for more information about our ewaste recycling services.

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