Environmental, Business, and Health Risks of Improper E-Waste Disposal
The batteries in electronic devices contain highly corrosive materials that can leak if the item is damaged during disposal, especially after electronic device shredding. This poses a risk of chemical burns to anyone who may come in contact with the item, especially sanitation workers. Electronics may also contain toxic heavy metals, such as lithium. These chemicals can get into soil, groundwater, and rainwater, then passed into crops and other food sources. As they are not biodegradable, they can persist in the environment for long periods. Even small amounts of repeated exposure can lead to neurological disorders and other ailments in humans.
Due to these risks, California has imposed strict fines and penalties on companies that violate electronic waste disposal regulations. The state’s maximum daily penalty for improper hazardous waste disposal is $70,000, raised from $25,000 in 2018. If companies are not motivated to improve their waste disposal practices by social responsibility, they face real threats to their financial well-being.