Electronic Waste (E-Waste)

  • Up to 50 million tons of electronic waste are expected to be discarded in 2017. It is estimated that only 10-40% of such waste is appropriately recycled.
  • This represents a significant waste of the labour, time, energy and cost involved in mining for gold, silver, titanium and other metals used in the manufacture of electronic gadgets.
  • It takes 530 lbs of fossil fuel, 48 lbs of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water to manufacture one computer and monitor.
  • Many items are considered hazardous as they contain mercury, lead and flame retardants. Inappropriate disposal can leach toxic chemicals in a dump or landfill.
  • Due to the sheer amounts of waste and lack of recycling facilities in Europe and America, e-waste is often exported to countries in Asia and Africa, adding to their waste problems. Here, the lack of appropriate legal and labour frameworks contributes to exploitation of those workers who sort the waste, and negative health issues for citizens in the surrounding ecosystem. The same issues are also factor in the factories for all major gadget manufacturers, particularly in China, where the unethical treatment of workers has made international headlines over the last decade.
  • Finally, the built in obsolescence of electronic gadgets by major manufacturers that ensures future revenue streams for such firms, directly contributes to e-waste. Many gadgets are assembled in a way that makes it impossible to take apart and repair. And in many cases, the government is also complicit in this issue e.g. the mandatory replacement of perfectly functioning analogue TVs with digital replacements, a policy being adopted in several countries across the globe.
  • Keep using gadgets and appliances for as long as possible. Before you upgrade, assess your requirements to make sure you really need a replacement.
  • When making a purchase, consider whether an existing item in your collection can already perform the function of the new gadget. Or whether a multipurpose gadget will be a better purchase? Single use gadgets e.g. spiraliser, are costly and space consuming if not used sufficiently.
  • If your gadget has stopped working, try to repair it first. Check out in-depth mobile phone repair guides at iFixit.
  • Instead of throwing away your gadget, try selling it second-hand, as an antique/vintage item if it so warrants, or for scrap.
  • Consider donating your item to a local charity shop if they accept electrical items. Perhaps a friend would like it?
  • Finally, do not throw away your gadget in the bin. Contact your council and inquire about their e-waste collection policy and recycle it accordingly.
  • If there are certain items that your council recycling unit won’t accept, search Google for specialist recycling companies that often accept many different and hard to recycle items.

  • Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia. Check out the documentary
  • Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia. Check out the documentary:
    • Purchase second hand and give these products a new lease of life.
    • Buy durable and efficient gadgets from companies with a commited stance on sustainability, ethics and the environment, like for example, from Fairphone.
    • The world’s first ecologically sustainable computers by iameco
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