Lack of Action

E-Waste and Redeemer

Nathan Brink

Last year, I became a Resident Advisor for a dorm of guys. Because it was a dorm of guys, I decided that we needed a TV. It was this large, clunky, and extremely heavy old thing that we all knew would be thrown out at the end of the year. Nobody wants to try to squeeze an outdated TV into their car as they head home. And so at the end of the year, we carried the thing outside and tossed it in the dumpster.

After it was in, I looked inside the dumpster and saw a large number of other TVs, similarly discarded by dorms who didn’t want to take it home. There were also kitchen appliances like toasters, blenders, coffee makers (which surprised me. What Dutchman would throw out a coffeemaker?), and so many other pieces of electronic waste.

As Christians, we are called to learn and grow and be stewards of this earth, and yet Redeemer has made absolutely no provisions for the proper disposal of electronic waste. With a little Internet research, I found numerous places around Hamilton where we can drop off Electronic Waste and they will properly dispose of it. Even better, there are several services where vans will come to your house, business or school and collect the waste. All Redeemer would have to do is set aside a special place for us to put the TVs and appliances, barbecues and little gadgets. As Stewards of Christ, I am surprised at the fact that no steps have been taken towards taking care of these products that are so damaging to the earth, when there are services out there waiting for us to call.

Ontario alone generates thousands of tones of electronic waste per year, with upwards of 90% of that being reusable. 81% of Ontario citizens have their own mobile phone, close to 11,000,000 people. The average length of time someone keeps a phone is about two and a half years. Almost every household in Canada has a television, a stereo, washing machines, refrigerators, stoves… the list of electronic devices in each home goes on. With new improvements, with each new generation of the iPhone, people go out and buy the latest gadget and either sell or throw out their old phones. So few people actually take the proper steps to dispose of E-waste, despite the free services that will come to your home and take it away for you.

Within most electronic devices there is a copious amount of metals that are hard to produce, as well as often being hard to properly dispose of safely. CRT monitors, those large, clunky TV and computer monitors, are some of the most difficult to recycle, as well as containing unsafe materials that, if abandoned in local landfills, are highly toxic.

Electronic waste is far too often shipped to developing countries like India and parts of Africa to be dismantled where there are fewer safety concerns. Removing components from CRT monitors is difficult and costly, due to the danger of the hazardous materials, and so they are sent away to either sit in enormous toxic dump yards or have impoverished people come and dismantle the technology themselves. One of the largest dump sites where e-waste is regularly shipped is the Guiyu waste dump in China. There is almost no control over how the precious metals are extracted from the waste and as such there is severe pollution to the groundwater, drinking water, and even the air. The tens of thousands of workers are paid little and often get incredibly sick due to the unsafe methods of extracting the metals.

All of this appalling information is what happens to e-waste that is not properly dismantled and is simply thrown away. Rather than having them sit and contaminate our land, they are shipped to developing countries where the effects are much more dangerous. When I looked into the bins in the parking lots of Redeemer, I saw dozens of monitors, appliances, and other pieces of waste that I know will not be handled safely.

This is an issue that is rarely discussed or looked at. Rarely do we look at outdated cellphones that we are throwing out and wonder if there is a proper method of disposing of it. All of us are complicit in our inactivity regarding this issue. But I think that with a little effort and organization, we can ensure that we all properly act as Stewards of God’s Kingdom. Redeemer is known as a phenomenal University with great academic programs, intelligent and understanding professors, and a huge community of believers. Our lack of action, I think, is a stain on this shining face of Redeemer, and one I hope can be remedied.