Academic Minute Podcast
Oladele Ogunseitan, University of California, Irvine – Disentangling the Worldwide Web of E-Waste and Climate Change
E-waste is a climate change issue.
Oladele (Dele) Ogunseitan holds the University of California Presidential Chair at Irvine where he served for more than a decade as Professor and Founding Chair of the Department of Population Health & Disease Prevention. He co-directs the World Institute for Sustainable Development of Materials (WISDOM). He served on the State of California’s Green Ribbon Science Panel, and the State’s Community Protection and Hazardous Waste Reduction Panel for the Department of Toxic Substances Control. Dele was a Global Environmental Assessment Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; and a National Academies’ Jefferson Science Fellow in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. He earned the State Department’s meritorious honor award for exceptional teamwork and contributions to the successful achievement of U.S. goals at the third United Nations Environment Assembly. Dele is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; an elected fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology; and an elected fellow of Collegium Ramazzini.
Disentangling the Worldwide Web of E-Waste and Climate Change
Greenhouse gas emissions are often associated with burning fossil fuels. However, many fail to realize that the electronic we use everyday also release these emissions when discarded and replaced with new devices.
My team and I set out to quantify the carbon footprint of electronic waste. To do this, we analyzed 1,003 life cycle reports from different manufacturers to determine the amount of carbon dioxide emissions created during the lifespan of the electronic devices.
The results of this analysis show that flat-screen TVs were associated with the highest emissions when compared to other electronics such as computers or phones.
We saw that in one scenario, an estimated 19 to 28 million metric tons of e-waste could have been prevented through a 50 percent to 100 precent increase in the lifetime of these devices if they were to be repaired, reused, and recycled.
Through our research, we found that 30 million people in 32 cities listed as e-waste recycling centers would be exposed to concentrations of hazardous metals in the air, water, and soil at a significantly higher quantities than permissible standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
This research is key to creating climate related policy. If we are able to lower these emissions and extend the useful lives on these electronic devices, we will help the planet and create healthier environments for our communities.
[Science Direct] – Disentangling the worldwide web of e-waste and climate change co-benefits