Electronics in Obsolescence: Peak of Consumer Culture and E-Waste

This era has been the era of remarkable technological improvements, ranging from smartphones, electric cars and now, for those that can afford it, smartcars.  However, this has come at a tremendous cost to the environment with the leaking of mercury, cadmium and other toxic elements in electronics. In the United States, Americans produced more than 3 million tons of electronic waste in 2008, which only 13.6 percent was recycled according to the EPA.  That still leaves more than 80 percent remaining in landfills nationwide.  Although some electronics companies have made moves to improve their e-recycling, they are still far behind.  Worldwide, comparatively, nations contribute 20 to 50 million tons of e-waste annually.  Given our numbers from 2008, the United States contributes 6 to 15 percent of total e-waste worldwide.  However, not all out-dated electronics are going to landfills, some are storing it in their garages, attics, cellars or elsewhere.  68% of electronics consumers have stockpiled outdated electronics, of which 235 million units are in storage.  And with each year or every other year, more and more consumer electronics are being stockpiled or otherwise disposed into landfills.

Consumer electronics are making tremendous strides with high-definition television sets, cell phones and computers.  Those electronics-manufacturing companies have made strides toward recycling obsolete electronics, but unfortunately, most haven’t.  These culprits include Sony, Philips, Hitachi, JVC, Sanyo, Lenovo and quite a few others.  Although declaring limits on consumer electronics would be beneficial, it would be an impossibility, given these technological advances, and the desire to own the “next big thing.”  With landfills, slowly amassing more e-waste, we may be slowly killing ourselves with the toxic elements within.