Educators and parents have a serious responsibility to teach kids about the importance of recycling e-waste. E-waste is growing at an alarming rate. The World Economic Forum reports that e-waste has surpassed paper as the number-one growing global waste stream in history. Current waste stream estimates are already just over 48 million tons. E-waste not only presents a problem with volume, though. There are other critical reasons why teaching kids today about recycling e-waste must be a priority.
Toxic Materials in E-Waste
Electronic devices often contain toxic materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and other substances. Without proper disposal or recycling, these toxic materials end up in the ground, where they contaminate drinking water and soil. Eventually, they may contaminate the food supply, causing illness and death.
Source of Raw Materials
Recycling e-waste whenever possible is just as important as proper disposal of e-waste. The precious metals inside of electronic materials take many man-hours of labor and other costs to excavate and process for use. So far, estimates are that less than 20 percent of the precious metals in electronic components is recovered due to recycling. The rest is simply tossed in the landfills.
Of course, landfill waste management is a central part of the reason why educators and parents should be teaching kids about the importance of recycling e-waste. Landfills are a finite resource that are already being pushed to the limits. Every device that can be recycled and kept out of a landfill is a boon for the ecology.
How Can Electronics be Recycled?
Consumers have a variety of ways to recycle their old devices. They include:
Rather than throw away a device, encourage kids to give them away or donate them. Charity stores like Goodwill happily accept electronic devices for resale.
Not everyone can afford brand-new devices. Kids can make a little extra money by selling unwanted devices on sites like eBay.
Many electronic retailers like Best Buy, Staples and Office Depot participate in take-back programs where they’ll take back old devices and make sure they are recycled or disposed of properly.
There are a variety of online recyclers like Call2Recycle that will take old batteries and other electronic devices. In some cases, they’ll even provide a mailer with prepaid postage.
Governments around the world are making moves to enforce recycling of electronics. So far, 26 states in the U.S. have mandated recycling of electronics. However, it’s consumers who have to make the final effort to recycle electronics or dispose of them properly in their homes and places of business.
It’s up to the kids of today to take care of the world tomorrow. It’s never too early to teach kids about the importance of recycling or properly disposing of e-waste. If a child is old enough to use a device, then that child is old enough to learn about recycling e-waste.
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