Reflecting on E-Waste is in Good Taste

old junky computer on the ground in a field

When we first think of being environmentally friendly, we might first imagine tossing a plastic bottle into a blue bin or a fully read magazine into a yellow bin.  Fortunately, recycling in these simple ways has become very mainstream, where Palm Beach and Broward Counties have among the highest rates of recycling in Florida.  But what about other types of waste?

October 14th is Electronic Waste Day, which highlights another important type of waste for us to consider.  In order to make electrical parts including computer chips and touch screens, heavy metals like mercury lead, arsenic, and cadmium are used to make those parts work. Even when they stop working, those heavy metals are still inside our electronics when they are sent to the landfill or dropped off at a recycling center.  Electronic waste, or e-waste, is becoming more difficult to properly recycle because of changes in the overseas trading of those materials.

Many overseas locations willing to receive our e-waste do not take measures to prevent these toxins from entering farmlands, rivers, and the ocean.  What doesn’t pollute the land can be toxic to fish and make pollutants bioaccumulate or collect in their bodies up the food chain!  Fortunately, we can make a big personal difference!  It’s Gumbo Limbo Nature Center’s mission to inspire stewardship of coastal and marine systems, and by taking action we can extend our impact globally! Just like reducing plastic waste, we can apply the Five R’s: Reflect, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle for our electronics.

Reflect: Do we need a new smartphone as often as we are tempted to buy one?  Could we make do with our currently working one for longer?  Are we making purchases because it’s necessary or out of impulse

Refuse: Do we need as many new electronic devices as we are offered?  Does a single person need the latest smartphone, smartwatch, tablet, laptop, and desktop all at the same time?  Just like refusing a plastic straw offered, we have opportunities to refuse unnecessary electronics as well! 

Reduce: Is it possible to purchase a refurbished item rather than new?  What if we supported companies that made devices easier to repair, rather than replace?  What if we supported companies which make devices that last long, rather than create products doomed-to-fail forcing us to buy new ones more frequently?  Another word for this is planned obsolescence.  Search this topic online if you are interested in for more information.

Reuse: If you do get a new device, could you repurpose your old device to be your car’s mp3 player or road-trip passenger cinema?  Could you give your old device to a friend or sell it?  This would provide more of those items on the used market, therefore creating less demand for new ones while maybe making you some money!

Recycle: The last resort, disposing of your electronics.  They cannot be repaired or repurposed.  Make sure you do not send it to the landfill, but to a recycling center where it has a better chance of being actually recycled.

As you might remember from visiting us and attending our daily Outdoor Aquarium Feeding presentations, experts agree that recycling is no longer enough.  Make a statement and consider the Five R’s if shopping next month.  By stopping pollutants from being sent to developing countries and their people, rivers, and oceans, we South Floridians can make a personal difference in coastal and marine ecosystems around the globe!

Category Tag(s): Nature Blog