Landfill vs Recycling?

There are two options presented to society in regards to waste disposal. The first is Landfill, the seemingly cheap and easy option, the other is Recycling, the environmentally friendly but more expensive option.

Recycling

Recycling is an environmentally friendly, and energy efficient resource recovery option. To recycle, e-waste must first be disassembled and broken into the base materials, such as copper and gold. Some of the materials recovered are difficult waste streams to recycle (CRT glass, mercury and batteries) and cost to safely recycle further. These costs combined with the labour costs are actually higher than the income gained from the materials recovered from the E-waste. To combat this a recycling fee must be charged to cover these costs.

 

Landfill

Recycling does cost money, which may deter people from choosing this option, however landfill is not as cheap and easy as we all believe it to be. Landfill causes a lot of damage that is unknown to the wider society. When E-waste is dumped in landfill along with putrescibles, an acidic precipitate forms, as this precipitate travels through a landfill cell it may come in contact with some of the toxic substances found in E-waste, such as lead, cadmium, mercury and toxic flame retardants. These toxic chemical can dissolve into the precipitate forming a toxic leachate.  If a landfill is unlined, or the lining in a lined landfill breaks, many toxic substances leak into the ground, contaminating our water supply and our soil. As a large part of our water supply in W.A comes from the ground, we do not want to risk contaminating it. In addition to the environmental cost associated with landfilling E-waste there is also an economic cost. If land or water supplies become contaminated, the pollution must be cleaned up, which can be very expensive.

Recycling = Winning Move

In the immediate short term, dumping E-waste in landfill may seem like a cheaper option, however when you take into account the environmental and economic costs that will be realized in the future, land filling will no longer be the cheapest option. Prevention is always better than a cure and thus Recycling is the more effective option and will be the winning move in the long run.