E-waste A consequence of globalisation

Read the following "E-waste: An introduction" as a class and then answer the questions that follow in your workbook.

E-waste: An introduction

In Australia and other developed countries around the world, electronics have become a way of life - we would feel lost without our phones and computers! However, consider how often electronic items become outdated or need to be replaced. How many mobile phones have you had? How about iPads or computers? What do you do with your electronics once you are finished with them?

Electronic items that have reached the end of their life are known as e-waste. A lot of e-waste is recyclable, however the large majority ends up in landfill where dangerous materials like lead, mercury and beryllium can leach into the soil and water, then becoming chemical contaminants. This is a huge problem when we consider the following statistics from the Australian Geography Teachers Association [AGTA] (2013):

  • Each year Australians purchase 3 million new computers
  • The typical computer has an active life of 3 years
  • Only 1.5% of computers are recycled
  • 70% of households have purchased a new TV in the last 3 years
  • Only 32% of replaced TV's are recycled
  • Only 3% of mobile phones are recycled
  • Australia's e-waste is growing at 3 times the rate of all other rubbish

To be answered in your workbook: What is e-waste? Write down two reasons as to why e-waste is a problem.

The recycling process of e-waste

Watch the video and then complete the following in your workbook: 1. Outline the general process of recycling in two sentences. 2. Do you think that recycling e-waste is a cheap and easy process? Give reasons for your answer.

Outsourcing of recycling

Since the process of recycling e-waste is labour intensive and therefore costly, many developed countries ship their e-waste to places such as China that have lower wages and limited health and safety regulations as seen in the video below:

After watching the video answer the following in your workbook: what differences do you note between the previous video showing the process of recycling e-waste in Australia vs. this video showing the process in China? What implications does the process of recycling e-waste in China have for workers and the environment?

Is there a solution then? What should we do?

Working with those around you (2-3 other people), identify the pros and cons of each solution to the problem of e-waste. Which one do you think is the best? Write this in your workbook.

  1. Build the expense of safe disposal or recycling into the cost of equipment;
  2. Governments collect all e-waste and charge their populations through tax for disposal;
  3. Outlaw all hazardous substances from electronic equipment;
  4. Establish national and/or international dumping sites (ATGA, 2013)

If you get time: click on the button "Recycling Near You". Find and write down two places you could take your e-waste to get recycled

Credits:

Created with images by JohnJMatlock - "IMG_0079"

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