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Microwaves may be as harmful to the environment as cars

New research out of the UK has found that microwaves in the EU emit as much carbon dioxide as nearly 7 million cars.

In the first-ever comprehensive study of the environmental impact of the ultra-popular appliance, the results show that microwaves emit 7.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. This amount is equal to how much carbon is emitted annually by 6.8 million cars in the EU.

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Manchester, who also found that microwaves across the EU consume as much electricity as three large power plants do every year.

For the study, the researchers used life cycle assessment to determine the environmental impacts of microwaves. The life cycle, in this case, includes manufacturing and waste management after the microwaves are thrown out.

Twelve different environmental factors, such as climate change and ecological toxicity, were taken into consideration when measuring the full ecological impact.

Both Manufacturing and the materials used to make microwaves are a major contributor to their impact, as they contribute more than 20% to the depletion of natural resources and climate change alone.

In order to reduce the environmental impact, the researchers say that focus should be put on consumer awareness and creating more energy efficient models. Because of the large supply and affordability of appliances, microwaves are thrown out before the end of their lifeline.

Throwing out appliances like microwaves not only generates tons of waste but also creates toxic waste in the process.

“Consumers now tend to buy new appliances before the existing ones reach the end of their useful life as electronic goods have become fashionable and ‘status’ items,” said Dr. Alejandro Gallego-Schmid, the study’s lead author. “As a result, discarded electrical equipment, such as microwaves, is one of the fastest growing waste streams worldwide.”

According to the study, appliance lifespans are getting shorter, which causes consumers to throw them away at an increasing rate. Microwave lifespans are now almost 7 years shorter than they were 20 years ago.

As more and more people purchase and throw out common household appliances like microwaves, the impact on the environment will increase. The research shows that implementing policies for both manufacturers and consumers is vital to reducing waste, power use, and carbon emissions.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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