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Tuesday 23rd July 2019

Out with the old, in with the new? Not so fast.

This year Apple introduced their new “no button” design. The public went mad, with people declaring this design “the future of smart phones” and, simultaneously, rendering the classic “button” look, old technology.

Is it actually any better? I doubt it. But nevertheless, it caused an exceptional number of people to throw out their phones and join others queuing outside Apple stores, bank cards at the ready. Why? FOMO (the fear of missing out). This feeling is brought about by increasing technological advancement and proliferation of social information. It’s that gut feeling that we’re missing out on something more exciting, more important.

But, what does it really mean? What are the consequences of this latest cultural disorder? It creates the throwaway culture we now live in. What’s worse is that we rarely ever question where our “old” devices actually end up.

Up to 90% of the world’s electronic waste, worth nearly £12bn, is illegally traded or dumped each year, according to the UN Environment Programme.

This year, it hit headlines that the UK is the worst offender in Europe for illegally exporting electronic waste to developing countries. Why is this bad? These countries have informal recycling workshops, where men, women and children are recovering valuable materials, burning these devices to melt away non-valuable materials.

Electronic waste is deemed a hazardous waste due to toxic parts containing substances such as mercury, lead, flame retardants and polluting PVC plastics. These can severely harm human health and the environment. This is happening right now.

The people melting these devices in developing countries usually do not wear protective equipment and lack any awareness that they are handling dangerous materials. Research has found that inhaling toxic chemicals and direct contact with hazardous e-waste materials (even in some formal e-waste recycling settings) result in increases in spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, premature births, reduced birth weights, mutations, congenital malformations, abnormal thyroid function, increased lead levels in blood, decreased lung function, and neurobehavioral disturbances. 

We need to take responsibility for the devastation we cause by not recycling our electronics responsibly and this needs to happen NOW.

For the next few months we plan to #BeClearOnData as we take a look at e-waste, exploring it’s damaging effects, how they can be avoided and the importance of recycling responsibly. Continue to follow our story @PaperRound.

Lorella Fava

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