How Digital Technology Affects the Environment


“The UN has calculated that producing the average computer and monitor requires 530 pounds
of fossil fuels, 48 pounds of chemicals and 1.5 tons of water.
Santa Clara county, California is a major centre for producing semiconductors for computers. As a result, Santa Clara County has more EPA-[Environmental Protection Agency] identified toxic waste sites, called Superfund sites, than any where else in the USA.” (Soltan)
Digital technology affects the environment in negative ways, before you buy your device, and after. This is called pre-consumer (before you buy the device), and post-consumer (after you have used it, and it’s been thrown away).  “At a vast dumpsite in the west of Ghana’s capital Accra, small fires burn among piles of old computers, television screens and laptops, throwing plumes of thick black smoke into the air. Around them, workers pick out motherboards, valuable metals and copper wires, burning away the plastic casings as they go-filling the air with toxic fumes. This is one of the biggest dumps for electronic waste in the world, and among the most polluted places on earth. Every year hundreds of thousands of tonnes of e-waste find their way here from Europe and North America, where they are stripped of their valuable metals in the crudest form of recycling.” (Lane)

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This shows that we are unknowingly polluting the earth with our lust for smartphones, laptops, computers, the latest flat screen tv, and many other things that we throw out after only a few years of use.
There are many examples of places that have been very polluted because of improper electronic recycling. “Hidden in an unknown corner of Inner Mongolia is a toxic, nightmarish lake created by our thirst for smartphones, consumer gadgets, and green tech,” (Maughan)

( Young/Unknown fields)

The thought that there is a man-made lake that was created to store all the waste that comes from the factories that make our smartphones, laptops and televisions is a scary thought, because we are unknowingly polluting our earth with the electronics we think that we need.
“The report points [out] that a drive in rising sales and shorter life-spans for electronic goods will increase global volumes of e-waste, which are likely to rise by more than 20 percent to 50 million tonnes in 2018.” (Jozuka)

( Bates)

This says that we will start throwing out our digital electronics sooner, and that there will be 50 million tonnes of e-waste in 2018.
Clay collected from the polluted Mongolian lake referred to earlier “The clay we collected from the toxic lake tested at around three times background radiation”  (Maughan)
Background radiation is a relatively constant low-level radiation, it was three times background radiation, that is a high concentration of radiation.
“In 2012, the US generated more than 9 million tons of e-waste, which was a huge jump from its 2 million tons in 2005. According to the EPA, 141 million mobile devices were ready for end-of-life management in 2008, but they made up less than 1% of discarded electronics. Of the electronic waste the US generated, only 25% was recycled. The other 75% was sent to landfills in the US or abroad.” (Gilpin)

Toxics e-waste documentation (China : 2005)

A small Chinese child sitting among cables and e-waste, Guiyu, China. Much of modern electronic equipment contains toxic ingredients. Vast amounts are routinely and often illegally shipped as waste from Europe, USA and Japan to countries in Asia as it is easier and cheaper to dump the problem on poorer countries with lower environmental standards. This practise exposes the workers and communities involved in dismantling e-waste to serious, environmental problems, danger and health hazards. Greenpeace is strongly urging major manufactures to exclude toxic materials from their products.

( Behring-Chisholm/Wikimedia Commons)

Now you are wondering what your device can be turned into because you recycled it properly.
“The metal from these devices can be used for many things, if extracted properly. Cell phone batteries and metals inside the phone can be used to make new ones, or for jewelry, art, metal plates or other electronics. A company in India, Attero, extracts metals like gold, platinum and selenium safely from used devices, refurbishes others, and helps businesses with end-to-end electronic asset management. It’s a small dent in the grand scheme, but companies like this are important—and profitable.” (Gilpin)

( Commons)

Most of our devices that we have gotten rid of end up in a few main places;
Accra (Ghana), Lagos (Nigeria), Karachi (Pakistan), Delhi (India), and Guiyu (China).
In most of these places, children work at taking apart all of the illegally transported goods. These children often get very sick from radiation, without knowing it.
If you want to prevent a child from getting sick from taking apart your device, there are places that are in Winnipeg that truly recycle your devices, one of them is called Mother Earth Recycling, many familiar places recycle to Mother Earth, some of them include; CP Rail, CTV Winnipeg, St. Boniface Hospital, Victoria Hospital and Winnipeg Free Press. I think we should think about where our devices are going, and we are encouraged to recycle to trustworthy sources.


Works Cited

Gilpin, Lyndsey. “The Depressing Truth about E-waste: 10 Things to Know –   TechRepublic.” TechRepublic. 11 June 2014. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.
Jozuka, Emiko. “The World Produced a Staggering 41.8 Million Tonnes of E-Waste in 2014.” Motherboard. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.
Lane, Edwin. “Where Many of Our Electronic Goods Go to Die – BBC News.”
BBC News. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.
Maughan, Tim. “The Dystopian Lake Filled by the World’s Tech Lust.”
BBC. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.
Soltan, Liz. “Technology Depleting Resources and Pollution.” Digital Responsibility.
Web. 03 Feb. 2016.


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