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World’s pile of electronic waste grows

AP, July 20, 2020 8:45AM Kids News

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A pile of discarded electrical and electronic components being processed to retrieve rare and precious metals at Le Havre, France. Picture: AFP media_cameraA pile of discarded electrical and electronic components being processed to retrieve rare and precious metals at Le Havre, France. Picture: AFP

environment

Reading level: green

The world’s mountains of discarded flat-screen TVs, mobile phones and other electronic goods grew to record highs last year, according to an annual report backed by the United Nations.

The study estimated the amount of e-waste that piled up globally in 2019 at 53.6 million tonnes – almost 2 million tonnes more than the previous year.

The authors of the study calculated the combined weight of all dumped devices with a battery or a plug last year was the equivalent of 350 cruise ships the size of the Queen Mary 2.

The Queen Mary II arrives in Sydney Supplied not for sale media_cameraThe massive ship Queen Mary 2 in Sydney Harbour. The combined weight of all dumped devices with a battery or a plug last year was the equivalent of 350 ships the size of the Queen Mary 2.

Among all the discarded plastic and silicon were large amounts of copper, gold and other precious metals — used for example to conduct electricity on circuit boards. While about a sixth of it was recycled, the remainder of those valuable components — worth about $81 billion — weren’t reclaimed, the study found.

Discarded electronic equipment also poses* a health and environmental hazard*, as it contains substances such as mercury that can damage the nervous system.

The authors of the study, which is produced by the United Nations University, the International Solid Waste Association and others, predicted that global e-waste could grow to 74 million tonnes by 2030.

In September 2013 South Australia became the first Australian state or territory to ban e-waste from landfill, followed by Victoria from July 1, 2019. These bans mean e-waste can’t go in any bin.

media_cameraA pile of discarded printers and other electronic components ready to have rare and precious metals harvested at Le Havre, France. Picture: AFP

WHAT TO DO WITH E-WASTE
In Australia, tech companies help pay for programs to recycle TVs, computers, printers and other technology equipment.

Find out what and where you can recycle by visiting Planet Ark’s Recycling Near You website at recyclingnearyou.com.au

Information on where to recycle mobile phones is at mobilemuster.com.au

media_cameraCollected aluminium chips from home electronics at the Tokyo Eco Recycle company in Tokyo. Picture: AFP

GLOSSARY

  • poses: presents
  • hazard: danger, risk

EXTRA READING

Kids feeling eco-anxiety about e-waste

Why we need to talk about waste and recycling

Hairdresser making 3D-printed recycled plastic fantastic

This man didn’t put the bin out for two years

QUICK QUIZ

  1. List three things that could become e-waste.
  2. What does the cruise ship Queen Mary 2 have to do with this story?
  3. Why could it be dangerous to put an old computer in the bin?
  4. Can you put e-waste in the bin in South Australia? Why not?
  5. How could you find out where to recycle e-waste?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Draw a graph
The authors of the study predict that e-waste will grow to an enormous amount by 2030. Draw a graph that shows what the e-waste was in 2018, 2019 and what the prediction is for 2030. Ensure your graph has space to draw in your own predictions of what the e-waste will be in the years 2020-2029.

Remember you will need to reach the predicted amount of tonnes by 2030. You can choose to use a line graph or a bar graph. Make sure you use an appropriate scale to represent the weight of e-waste.

To draw your predictions, you will need to think about how much, on average it goes up by each year.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Mathematics, Sustainability

2. Extension
How can we reduce this waste?

Have a think about why we might be throwing away electronic or battery-operated items. Is it because they are broken? Have they worn out? Or is it because we want a newer model of something?

What can we do to stop creating so much waste? Make a list of 3-5 actions that you can do to help prevent your appliances ending up as waste.

Write next to each one how this action will help to reduce the waste.

For example: Take care of your appliances – if we look after our appliances its less likely they will get broken.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative thinking, Sustainability

VCOP ACTIVITY
Opener Operation
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight all the openers you can find in blue. Discuss if they are powerful and varied openers or not. Why do you think the journalists have used a mix of simple and power openers? Would you change any, and why?

HAVE YOUR SAY: What do you do with old technology gear?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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