We throw away a million tonnes of household electrical and electronic waste every year in the UK. At least as much comes from non-household sources such as offices, factories, schools and hospitals.
Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) plays an ever-increasing role in our daily lives.
Our kitchen appliances, mobile phones and computers offer us many benefits during their working lives but when this equipment is thrown away it affects the environment.
Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the UK and the EU.
Some WEEE contains hazardous substances and parts such as mercury in some switches, lead in solder and cadmium in batteries. Recycling rates for most types of WEEE are currently very low.
The average 24kg desktop computer with monitor requires at least 10 times its weight in fossil fuels and chemicals to manufacture, much more materials intensive than an automobile or refrigerator, which only require 1-2 times their weight in fossil fuels. Researchers found that manufacturing one desktop computer and 17-inch CRT monitor uses at least 240 kg of fossil fuels, 22 kg of chemicals and 1,500 kg of water – a total of 1.8 tonnes of materials.
This is why MillRace IT will refurbish and re-use redundant computer equipment wherever possible.
While computers become smaller and more powerful, their environmental impacts are increasing. The materials- and energy-intense production process, greater adoption of PCs worldwide, plus the rapid rate at which they are discarded for newer machines, add up to growing mountains of garbage and increasingly serious contributions to resource depletion, environmental pollution and climate change.
The main impacts are believed to be:
- Significant energy use in the production and operation of computers.
- Possible long-term health effects on workers, families and neighboring communities due to chemical exposure and emissions from production stages such as microchip fabrication.
- Possible health impacts due to exposure to hazardous materials contained in computer products, in particular brominated flame retardants and lead. The main risk of exposure is probably from computers that have been dumped in landfills or from environmentally unsafe recycling processes in the developing world.
This is why MillRace IT recycles any waste equipment with zero landfill.
The high-tech nature of computer manufacturing makes it extremely energy intensive and therefore significant for climate change and depletion of fossil fuel resources.
Monitors, and to a lesser extent computers, contain significant quantities of heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium, which pose potential health risks to production workers and environmental risks to water supplies near landfills where they are eventually dumped.
Because so much of the energy used over the life cycle of a computer is in manufacturing high-tech components, which are usually destroyed in recycling processes to recover raw materials, the energy savings potential of reselling or upgrading is some 5-20 times greater than recycling.
Some facts about WEEE and the responsibilities of business users in the UK:
- WEEE legislation says that organisations have a duty of care to make sure their waste is disposed of properly.
- Computer equipment contains toxic materials that leak into groundwater and produce carcinogens and toxins.
- CRTs, contain contaminants such as lead, cadmium, beryllium, mercury, and brominated flame retardants.
- Containers of computers get exported to third world countries and stripped for scrap metals.
- Huge WEEE landfills in China, India, Vietnam, Ghana, Nigeria, Brazil and Chile are miles wide and growing!
MillRace IT ensure that your old equipment does not end up in landfill, is not shipped to developing countries and is re-used and placed back into the community wherever possbile.
The families live right in the burn-yards. Cancer causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and dioxins will result from burning wires made from PVC and brominated flame retardants.
Pictures courtesy of www.BAN.org