As today is World Environment Day, we’re going to be focusing on guiding you towards becoming a responsible smartphone consumer by encouraging you to consider how you’re currently consuming your tech. We’re going to be discussing some specific examples of how e-waste can impact biodiversity, and we also have a quiz that will help you to determine what type of recycler you are.
World Environment Day is an annual event held on the 5th of June which is centred around environmental action. It’s been in motion since 1974, and its main goal is to engage governments, businesses and the public to consider an urgent environmental issue. The focus of this year’s World Environment Day is biodiversity, which couldn’t be more befitting, given that last year the deforestation of the Amazon was making headlines for being at its worst in over a decade. Deforestation has a devastating impact on biodiversity, which is why it continues to be regarded as a critical issue for environmental campaigners.
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Biodiversity, in simple terms, can be described as whatever would be regarded as ‘life on earth’, which ranges from the tiniest of bacteria to the largest of blue whales. Not only is there the magnitude of the variety of different organisms that exist on earth to consider, but there’s also all of the complex interrelationships that transpire between species and with their surroundings in their respective ecosystems to take into account as well.
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Biodiversity supports various ecosystems that humans rely on, such as fresh water, food, and medicine. A notable example of this is Lake Turkana in Kenya, which is the habitat for a plethora of different organisms, including around 60 species of fish, Nile crocodiles and hippos. There are roughly 300,000 people that rely on the food and income that this lake provides, as the abundance of biodiversity provides a profusion of resources that humans can use to sustain themselves. As this example illustrates, biodiversity is crucial for humanity as we need it for a variety of purposes to stay alive.
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Most e-waste (which we describe as discarded electronic devices such as mobile phones that have not been responsibly recycled) is dumped on landfill sites across the globe and can have a detrimental impact on biodiversity. One example of this is how mercury, a chemical element that can be found in phone batteries, crystal displays and circuit boards, can affect an entire food chain.
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Mercury can take a liquid, gas, or solid particle form which makes it more likely to spread and can make it challenging to control once it has begun to infiltrate soil or groundwater. Not only this, but the contamination can last for long periods of time meaning that it can easily be transferred to larger bodies of water. If an insect in a contaminated river were to ingest the mercury, then this would move upwards in the food chain to fish, and then to the predators that eat the fish, such as otters, and so on.
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Evidently as a society we should be working towards using circular economy processes rather than allowing e-waste to contaminate the earth, but until governments and manufacturers of electronics assume this responsibility, it will ultimately fall on us as individual consumers to ensure that our electronics do not get dumped on a landfill site.
Considering the information that we have discussed so far in this article, it would be good practice to consider what your recycling habits are at the moment, and whether you could make some changes to be more responsible. Click here to navigate to our quiz, which will reveal what type of recycler you are.
Whatever sort of recycler you turn out to be, make sure to take advantage of various recyclers that will responsibly recycle your device by either selling it on to someone new, or extracting the old parts and selling these on. This is an easy way to do your part for the environment.
Cover photo by Conscious Design on Unsplash
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