The Future of E-Waste Recycling
E-waste is one of the fastest-growing waste streams on the planet. Already, we produce something like 50 million tons of it each year. And that number’s only set to increase as electronics become more accessible worldwide. Who would have thought that we would encounter something like e-waste in our world?
So, what is e-waste? E-waste, or electronic waste, encompasses electrical and electronic equipment that’s outdated, unwanted, or broken. That means everything from smartphones to end-of-life refrigerators. Basically, anything that runs on electricity that you’ve decided to get rid of. Globally, we only recycle 10% of our e-waste, a number that’s as shocking as it is depressing. As for the 90% we don’t recycle, it ends up getting landfilled, incinerated, or illegally traded. That’s definitely not good for our planet.
As technology becomes more advanced, the lifespan of electronics is becoming shorter and shorter. Good products are being thrown simply because a newer generation of a product has made itself known. Electronics contain a lot of chemicals that are harmful to the environment and to people. Toxic heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium and beryllium, polluting PVC plastic, and hazardous chemicals make up the electronics we use daily and when we dispose of those items without any consciousness we are allowing our planet to become overloaded.
What Can We Do To Stop This Trend From Skyrocketing?
Thankfully, not all is lost and there is a ton that we can do to downtick e-waste and prevent this from growing into a larger problem for our environment.
Reduce The easiest way to solve the e-waste crisis is to produce less e-waste. Easier said than done, right? Companies are constantly rolling out new products—like Apple, for instance, with its iPhone; we see a new one almost every year. Newer products look and function better than their predecessors, but novelty comes at a price.
Instead of buying that flashy new gadget the day it releases, stick to what you’ve got. Wait a few months or even a year or two before making that quick switch. By taking care of your electronics, you can ensure that they last longer. When you don’t have to replace them as often, you end up saving money.
Reuse/UpCycle Instead of tossing out that old television set or gaming console, consider regifting, selling, or donating it. You could also hold on to it. Who knows, it might end up being worth something someday.
Another great way to reuse your old electronic products is to find innovative ways to utilize the parts. For example, our friends over at ReHyphen have the coolest business! They take old cassette tapes (remember those?) and they weave the tape into a piece of MusicCloth. You can find more about their business linked above.
Repair People often throw out and replace broken electronics instead of getting them repaired. True, repairs can be expensive, but for those who aren’t afraid of a DIY project, it’s a cheap fix. Online resources like iFixit, a website that boasts free repair guides for everything, provide reliable information that’ll help you get your tech back in working order. Always remember to be safe, though.
Recycle As a last resort, you can always recycle your e-waste—just make sure you’re doing it correctly!
Many communities have e-waste recycling events and drop-off depots that handle these materials. Manufacturers and retailers, like Apple and Best Buy, also have recycling programs that you can utilize and drop off your old products and they’ll dispose of them for you.