Throughout my course, we have looked at citizenship from various aspects. This week’s topic, e-waste, was particularly disconcerting. E-waste is a significant global problem. With over 50% of our e-waste being shipped to other countries where regulations are more lax or non-existent, do we as ethical citizens have a moral obligation to safely dispose or recycle e-waste? “The issue of e-waste spans generations, races and cultures and is inextricably bound to business, health, the environment and the economy on an international level.” (Dickerson & Kisling, 2009, p. 53). How and when do we teach the younger generation about proper disposal of e-waste, and the ethical and moral issues surrounding this global problem?
Did you know that electronic equipment contains toxic substances such a lead, cadmium, mercury and barium? These substances must be handled properly to avoid contamination of water health and soil as well as protect humans from serious health problems. (Dickerson & Kisling, 2009). With such a disheartening topic, there has to be some hope. “Sustainable development requires maximum possible utilization of renewable sources as well as minimization of waste production and waste recycling.” (Klemes, 2010, p. 589). Kasper (2011) offers hope through their study of recycling mobile phones. Their study found an ecologically way to manage the waste polymers as well as reuse recycled material in the production of new phones or similar devices.
“When asked about having previously received instruct ion on e-waste, 88% of the students had never received instruction and 79% believed that there was little or no information available on this issue. When asked about their practices of e-waste disposal, student input was concurrent with the lack of instruction they had received on this topic.” (Dickerson & Kisling, 2009, p. 56). If students have not received instruction (formal or informal), how and where are they going to learn about their responsibilities and impact? My daughter taught our family many years ago the importance of properly disposing batteries. To this day she keeps a metal box in her room for the collection of our family’s used batteries. Where did she learn this? She learned this through a grade four class study on waste and the environment. Kudos to education!
Kasper, A., Bernardes, A., & Veit, H. (2011). Characterization and recovery of polymers from mobile phone scrap. Waste Management & Research: The Journal Of The International Solid Wastes & Public Cleansing Association, ISWA, 29(7), 714-726. http://ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eih&AN=62029993&site=ehost-live
Klemeš, J. (2010). Environmental policy decision-making support tools and pollution reduction technologies: a summary. Clean Technologies & Environmental Policy, 12(6), 587-589. http://ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eih&AN=55022955&site=ehost-live
Dickerson, J., & Kisling, E. (2009). Global and electronic waste: information in business education. Journal For Global Business Education, 951-60. http://ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=43278562&site=ehost-live