The Long-Term Effects of Computer Hardware in My Town Introduction The 1980s marked the entry of computers into offices and a few homes. At the time, only a few people were interested in owning personal computers, but three decades down the line, more than 80% of American households own at least one computer set…
However, when they become obsolete and are discarded inappropriately, the products release toxic substances into the environment- including air, water, and soil. Various computers parts have varying levels of toxic substances. For instance, an average computer screen contains five to eight pounds of lead accounting for around 40% of all lead in the US. Generally, these items form part of a larger category of wastes known as electronic waste, or e-waste. Electronic waste generally refers to carelessly discarded, excess, or broken electronic devices. This definition is vague and there is still debate as to whether items such as broken fridges and other household appliances should be included under e-wastes. However, the widely accepted definition includes wastes arising from computer hardware, old electronic devices such as phones (both fixed and mobile) and entertainment gadgets, television sets, computer monitors, refrigerators, and other electronic communication devices. Poor disposal of e-wastes poses several risks to human health and degrades environmental quality as they contain noxious metallic elements known to cause serious health complications. When the wastes are buried in landfills, toxic constituents can infiltrate into water systems and the soil, and finally reach our bodies. Should we sacrifice ourselves for the sake of technology? There has been a growing call for industry players to effect proper disposal of e-wastes, or to find alternative uses of the wastes, such as recycling and separating the components of the electronic devices for use in various industrial processes. Causes of Increased Volumes of Computer Hardware Although toxins released by poorly discarded computer hardware affect every one of us, the majority is generated by electronic companies and repair shops that do not want to incur additional expenses in adopting sound waste management expenses. Critics also argue that recycling could unintentionally cause damage to the environment as it leads to accumulation of electronic materials that will eventually have to be discarded. They further argue that e-wastes do not constitute a significant portion of total wastes. Hence, diversion of more funds to implement waste management practices will only serve to benefit the companies and not the public (Hicks et al, 2005). Besides, recycling of computer hardware exposes workers to the heavy metals present in most of the equipment. This problem can worsen if workers do not wear protective gear. It is costly too since the percentage of the initial cost recovered after recycling can be as low as 1-5%. Using these arguments, companies and individuals have continued to dump computer hardware and other electronic wastes without regard to their long-term effects on the environment. This could subsequently result in the suffering of innocent individuals who have had no input in the disposal process. A second common source of waste computer hardware has been through dismantling shops. Although the recycling process is a noble idea, not computer parts are recycled. The non-recycled parts are poorly disposed leading to increased amounts of waste computer hardware in our town. The steady increase of these computer parts together with other obsolete electronic items could ultimately result into a steady increase in electronic wastes resulting to unmanageable levels. Long Term Effects of Computer Hardware in my Town Electronic wastes contain precious elements ...
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