Reducing e-waste: what can we all do?
Electronic waste (e-waste) is the fastest growing and most problematic waste stream in the world. The thing is, many of us want to make a difference, but do not quite know how.
There are now more mobile phones than there are people in the world. For years, there has been a throwaway culture and a growing tendency to want the newest generation of technology products, creating a global e-waste problem. 1.4 million tonnes of electronic waste are sent to landfill every year in the UK, where it releases toxins into the air, water, and soil. With the spotlight turning to the environment and reducing waste, consumers have the desire to recycle their tech products but there remains an information gap on the best ways to reduce their e-waste.
We can actively choose to try and maintain our tech and avoid upgrading to a newer model as soon as it is released. This reduces the demand from manufacturers and chips away at the growing e-waste problem. It also helps save money for consumers while encouraging manufacturers to design products that will stand the test of time.
The main e-waste problem starts at the beginning of the gadget’s life cycle. Phones and laptops are often hard for most people to repair beyond fixing a cracked screen. Just recently, the EU Commission announced new eco-design measures to make household appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines more sustainable and easier to repair. Requirements will be introduced relating to improving the life span of products, waste handling of appliances and their recyclability. This does not extend to mobile devices yet but it is a positive step towards a circular economy and perhaps a focus for electronic gadgets in the future.
As technological evolution shows no signs of slowing down, new solutions are needed to balance out the demand for the latest products. We believe the best form of recycling is reuse. That is why we breathe new life into technology products.
Recycling electronics can help manage e-waste. As many as 40 million gadgets in the UK are sitting in people’s drawers collecting dust. Some people simply throw their old phones out and they drift through the typical waste stream – ending up in landfill, decaying and leaking toxins into the environment; each person in the UK throws away on average 20-25kg of e-waste each year.
Even phones that are cannot be repaired are valuable. They contain precious metals such as platinum, gold and silver. Batteries contain nickel which can be made into stainless steel for saucepans and the plastics can be melted down and made into sheeting or traffic cones. When simply thrown away, these resources are lost, requiring ongoing mining and drilling for new precious metals – of which the Earth only has a finite amount.
There are small steps that we can all take to reduce e-waste and its impact on the environment. Just remember – reduce, reuse and recycle.
To find out more about how we are tackling e-waste visit: click here.