Toxic waste


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  • I don’t know about you, but when I turn on my laptop or pick up my cell phone, or turn on my television I do not stop to think about how they were made or about who made them. I just get right on to using them.
  • What gadgets do you own? I have a smartphone and two laptops and I use them almost all day every day. I’ve had each of them now for a little over a year. Each replaced previous versions I had.
  • Today we are going to focus on cell phones, because most of the people in the world use them. There are over 5 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide.
  • Many hazardous metals are used in the manufacture of cell phones. Among the most common are: cadmium, nickel, lead, MERCURY, manganese, lithium, zinc, arsenic, antimony, beryllium and copper.
  • For this presentation we will use MERCURY as our example toxic metal
  • Mercury is used in liquid crystal display screens (LCDs) and in switches in cell phonesto energize the phosphorous coating in the cold fluorescent bulbs, and in the shutoff and change tilt switches of the displays
  • Particularly, mercury is used in the backlight of the lcd’s
  • Ionized mercury emits ultraviolet light that the phosphorous accepts then turns to bright white light
  • Mercury is toxic to humans. Mercury can damage brains, kidneys and lungs. Severe mercury poisoning can cripple—both muscle movement and brain functions.
  • Much of the electronics we dispose of as waste is hazardous to humans. Over 100 million cell phones are thrown into landfills every year70% of toxic waste in landfills comes from electronicsWhen the electronics break, the toxic materials erode and leach into the surrounding soil and waterToxic metals from landfills and other dumping get from the water supply and into our food supplies
  • Federal agencies such as the EPA as well as state and local agencies try to regulate what people dump into landfills and water bodies.
  • In an attempt to standardize handling, household and commercial hazardous waste is being labeled Universal Waste (UWR) to help government agencies formulate and distribute policies regarding them.
  • In landfills and water bodies mercury is converted into methylmercury which is bioacculumulative and biomagnified as it is absorbed up the food chain. Predators consuming and on and on…
  • Mercury is mined directly and also acquired as a byproduct of mining for other minerals and drilling for natural gas.
  • Liquid mercury—formerly used in dentistry, in silver amalgam fillings and also in thermometers. Used still as a preservative in some medicines. Cinnabar—used historically for red coloring and lacquer
  • Mercury poisoning was first identified in Minamata, Japan in the early 1950’s. Mercury was one of the wastes discarded by a chemical and fertilizer company there. The effects of severe mercury poisoning are truly awful.
  • Recovery of mercury for reuse and safe disposal requires specialized handling.
  • Mostly though mercury and other heavy metals from our electronic waste end up in landfills where children try to salvage reusable components, and suffer toxic exposure.
  • All this sounds pretty bad, and it is. At the same time the recycling of electronic components for the repair of equipment provides a way for otherwise very poor people to make a living.
  • So, how might we do better?
  • What are some opportunities for innovation in the production of electronics that you imagine?
  • Here are links to some resources where you can learn more about recycling of electronics
  • Thank you for viewing this presentation. Please share this it with your family and friends. It will remainavailable on Slideshare and at the Center for Water Studies in Second Life ( . Please use it to engage people you know in conversations about eWaste, share ideas, invent solutions together. The next generation of innovative ideas will be up to you!
  • Toxic waste

    1. 1. Toxic Waste, the downside of electronics …where technology meets ethicsLinda Morris Kelley, aka Delia Lake in virtual media January 13, 2011 for Global Kids given at the New Media Consortium in Second Life
    2. 2. What electronic gadgets do you own?• Cell phone? – Smartphone?• Laptop computer?• iPad/Tablet?• Game console?• iPod?• When’s the last time you got a new one?
    3. 3. Cell phones•Over 5 billion mobile subscribers worldwide (2010)•90% of world population live where they can access mobilenetworks (even 80% of people in rural areas)
    4. 4. What hazardous metals are in mobile phones?• Cadmium• Nickel (NiCd rechargable batteries)• Lead (circuit soder)• Mercury (lcd, switches)**• Manganese• Lithium (batteries)• Zinc• Arsenic• Antimony• Beryllium• Copper Photo: technology/the-environmental-costs-and- benefits-of-our-cell-phones.html
    5. 5. For this presentation we are using mercury as our example
    6. 6. LCD (liquid crystal display)• Mercury – Display screen – Screen tilt and shutoff switches – From EPA, Purpose: Mercury in screens and monitors: Visible light is produced when the mercury is electrically energized. Mercury tilt switches in laptop screen shutoffs: When the laptop monitors are tilted, the mercury flows to either end cutting off the circuit on one end, while opening it on the other side. They often function as on/off switches.
    7. 7. Liquid crystal display Many cell phones as well as laptops and televisions have LCD’s
    8. 8. Why do we use mercury in our liquid crystal displays?•Ionized mercury vapor emits ultraviolet light•Phosphorous accepts the UV light and then emits brightwhite light
    9. 9. Mercury is toxic to humans• Mercury and mercury compounds can damage skin, brains, kidneys and lungs• Symptoms include impaired cognitive functions, loss to sight and hearing as well as decreased speech and muscle coordination• Some of the symptoms are reversible with treatment• PREVENTION is the best treatment
    10. 10. Much of Electronic waste (e-Waste) is hazardous to people• 70% of the toxic waste in landfills comes from our electronic gadgets—computers, cell phones, televisions… – Over 100 million cell phones are thrown away every year• When the cases break and weather, the toxic materials leach out contaminating water and soil, and then get into our food and drinking water
    11. 11. Federal, state and local agencies try tocontrol the release of toxic eWaste, butdo not always succeed
    12. 12. Hazardous wastes that can becategorized as Universal Waste (UWR)• Universal wastes are: – 1. Electronic devices: Includes any electronic device that is a hazardous waste (with or without a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT)), including televisions, computer monitors, cell phones, VCRs, computer CPUs and portable DVD players. – 2. Batteries: Most household-type batteries, including rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries, silver button batteries, mercury batteries, alkaline batteries and other batteries that exhibit a characteristic of a hazardous waste
    13. 13. Mercury in landfills• Mercury in landfills is often converted into methylmercury (monomethylmercuric cation) – Bioaccumulative – Eaten and absorbed through digestive system• Fish that live in waters where electronic waste is dumped are one of the prime sources of human mercury poisoning
    14. 14. Mining mercury ore, mostly cinnabar • Direct extraction • Byproduct of mining for gold, silver and zinc • Recovery during extraction of natural gas
    15. 15. Liquid mercury and cinnabar
    16. 16. What mercury poisoning looks likehttp://www.documentingreali /disorders/mercurytox.html-mercury-poisoning-93661/
    17. 17. What should happen in the recycling, recovery and disposal of mercuryIt requires expert handling. Example: Extraction and processing Pellets suitable for landfill
    18. 18. What often happens in the recycling and recovery of toxic metals from eWaste
    19. 19. eWaste considerations: hazards vs making a living• Many “recycled” electronics are shipped from “rich” countries with throwaway cultures to countries with weak rules regarding human rights and handling of toxic materials – Child safety: children are most often the ones “mining” the discarded electronics for reusable materials for the repair industry – Electronics repair industry provides steady income plus supply of replacement LCD’s for electronic equipment• Egypt, India, China…• “E-waste, or electronic waste, is believed to be the largest illegally traded toxic hazardous waste in the world.”
    20. 20. How can we do better? How can we be more responsibleand still use the electronics on which we depend?
    21. 21. Opportunities for innovation --rethink electronic products so that fewer toxic materials are used• Design and engineering• Materials handling – Mining – Manufacture – End user• Reuse• Recovery and recycling• Safe disposal
    22. 22. Resources for learning more about recycling• Clean Up Mobile Phones (Australia) sheet_mobilephones-the-environment.pdf• Department of Toxic Substances Control (California) Waste/upload/UW_Factsheet1.pdf• eRecycle.• Earth 911
    23. 23. Thank You!For more about important water issues, please visit the Center for Water Studies in Second Life Delia Lake, Managing Steward,