A new study has revealed that microwaves cause as much pollution as cars running on roads. According to the study, annual carbon dioxide emission of microwaves in the European Union (EU) is equivalent to carbon dioxide emissions of nearly seven million cars. The research was carried out by the scientists at the University of Manchester, UK. They used life-cycle assessment technique to estimate the environmental impacts of microwaves, and for that, they looked at whole journey of microwaves like their manufacture, use and afterlife waste management.
The scientists examined twelve different environmental factors like climate change, depletion of natural resources, ecology toxicity related to the use of microwaves. The results surprised scientists as they found out that microwaves emit about 7.7 million tons of carbon dioxide per annum which is equivalent to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of about 6.8 million cars. The study revealed that it is not the usage of microwave that is harming the environment. Rather, the manufacturing process and the end-of-life waste management are main factors affecting the environment.
As per the study, the manufacturing process of microwaves alone contributes more than 20 percent to climate change and depletion of natural resources. The study further said that the electricity consumption by microwaves has the biggest environmental impacts, if one considers microwaves’ whole life cycle, that is from production of fuels to generation of electricity. The study informed that on an average, one microwave uses 573-kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity during its overall estimated lifetime of eight years. This consumption is equivalent to the electricity consumed by a 7-watt LED light bulb, switched on continuously for almost nine years. The study also found out that in EU, microwaves consume at an average rate of 9.4 terawatts per hour (TWh) of electricity every year that equals the power generated annually by three big gas power plants. In EU, the buyers of microwaves are growing in numbers and so are the microwave wastes.
Alejandro Gallego-Schmid of the School of Chemical Engineering & Analytical Science of the University of Manchester said, “Consumers now tend to buy new appliances before the existing ones reach the end of their useful life. As a result, discarded electrical equipment, such as microwaves, is one of the fastest growing waste streams worldwide.” According to him, the lifespan of microwaves is gradually decreasing and has fallen to almost 7 years in the past 20 years. Hence, more and more microwave wastes are added to the environment. So, there is need to for better management of microwave wastes and better regulations to control the environmental impacts of microwaves.