What struck out to me most in the second week of discussion was Zions TV’s Youtube video titled “E-Waste Hell.” Broadly speaking, the video captured the devastating biological repercussions of irresponsibly and inhumanely dumped electronics on the country of Ghana. This disposal leads to the emission of dangerous “chemicals like lead, cadmium, beryllium, mercury, and brominated flame retardants” that permeate into natural groundwater with lethal toxicity. These occurrences are detrimental to the entire population of not only the horrifically young workers who scavenge through fuming toxic waste for scraps of copper, but also the other demographics selling food goods, textiles, and other market goods all of which are constantly exposed to the toxic smoke. The physiological impact of this phenomenon in communities such as Ghana results in a lifetime of respiratory decay, leading to premature death.
A recent example of this is “one of the UK’s leading waste and recycling companies” being linked to a “contravention of regulations,” discovered by campaigners, that proved a third party company was utilized to export electronics, intended to reside in South London, to West Africa. Furthermore, a report written by the “Environmental Investigation Agency(EIA)” presents “the findings of an 18 month investigation into how UK e-waste, much of it toxic, is ending up abroad where it is frequently processed in primitive conditions, posing a threat to the environment and human health.” It both fascinates and disgusts me how developed countries implement these negligent ‘recycling policies’ that are falsely advertised as a benefit to the environment.
As I delve deeper into my studies at UCLA, I have become increasingly aware of the countless technological devices that are essential for the production of art. Computers, laptops, cables, phones, hard drives, tablets, projectors, keyboards, and digital screens are used every day by hundreds of DMA students. Without these devices, however, we would not be able to utilize software imperative to master our craft. This is only a small example of the origin of electronic waste common at all universities across the world. For example, a study conducted by re:fuel in 2013 found that “the average 18-34-year-old college student owns [6.9] tech devices,” all of which have a specific lifetime and will eventually be ‘recycled’ then replaced.
By no means am I innocent with regards to proper waste removal. Rather than getting rid of my electronics, I box them up and store them by fear of losing precious files. According to my research, this is a dangerous act the could lead to the explosion of corroded lithium batteries “when the plastic separator [of the circuit] fails and lets the anode and cathode touch.” Luckily there are numerous bodies like the Basel Action Network (BAN) organized to educate users of electronics about responsible recycling practices. BAN offers a ‘recycler locator’ service that works closely with certified e-Stewards, ensuring environmental friendly solutions to the e-waste epidemic.
Before my findings, I was completely blind to these dreadful facts. I would like to consider myself a passionate activist of world peace and the only way to achieve this is to educate others. We are one people - a human race - that must to work together to save each other. Before it is to late, now is the time for harmonious political alignment, social reconciliation, and truthful, considerate implementation of recycling policies.
Wasley, Andrew. “UK e-Waste Illegally Dumped in Ghana.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 16 May 2011, www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/may/16/uk-ewaste-dumped-ghana.
TV, Zions, director. E-Waste Hell. YouTube, YouTube, 12 Feb. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=hP0haXs-y_8.
“College Students Own an Average of 7 Tech Devices.” Marketing Charts, 5 July 2017, www.marketingcharts.com/industries/media-and-entertainment-30430.
“Electronic Waste (E-Waste) Recycling & Disposal - Facts & Statistics.” Money Crashers, 27 Mar. 2019, www.moneycrashers.com/electronic-e-waste-recycling-disposal-facts/.
Guinness, Harry. “Why Do Lithium-Ion Batteries Explode?” How-To Geek, 16 Jan. 2018, www.howtogeek.com/338762/why-do-lithium-ion-batteries-explode/.