We so often pay attention to the main types of recycling that is done all across the board to save the environment that we have forgotten that during all of this we have created a whole new problem for ourselves. Just think about the new phones released each year on the market.
People immediately leap at new phones and dispose of or exchange their old phones. These old phones usually go into the market in order to be refurbished and re-sold. But most of the times they find their way inside garbage dump.
Now think, phones are only just one product. There are hundreds of types of products released every month let alone every year.
What is E-Waste?
E-waste is the waste generated from all of these electronic products being thrown away. Be it phones, laptops, keyboards, computer screens or literally anything with a motherboard in it- it is considered e-waste.
An average person now purchases a new mobile phone every other year now. They also purchase several other electronics. Technology is moving so fast these days that a new technology today could be obsolete by the end of the month. That within itself creates a mountain of e-waste.
It is estimated that in the United States alone over 60 million metric tons of electronics waste fills up landfills across the country. It is also estimated that 100 million computers go to waste with only 20% of it being recycled.
Electronics usually contain harmful elements such as beryllium, mercury, lead or cadmium. A large quantity of these in our local landfills could be extremely dangerous.
How to Dispose of it?
There are a number of ways to dispose of electronic waste by yourself and do your own part. Many world governments also are doing it at a national level, but let us first go through how an individual may help and get through local e-waste recycling.
Basel Action Network(BAN) Certified Recycler
First, you could give it to a Basel Action Network(BAN) Certified Recycler. BAN is a collection of companies that have pledged to waste or recycle e-waste very responsibly. These companies will extract the precious as well as the dangerous metals from within a computer and then will recycle what they can. These companies also protect your data if there is any, but also do not ship them off to another nation. Thus this is a wonderful way of local e-waste recycling. But you can also take a number of steps to prolong the life of your electronics. Update or upgrade them as often as you can, so you do not have to replace it every so often. But if you do feel it necessary then completely wipe all drives so that there is no personal information. Also, take out batteries since they can easily explode.
Re-sale your old Electronics
Secondly, you could re-sale your old electronics. This should be the most obvious way of protecting your electronics from going into waste. Your old phone might be completely new for someone and at a reduced price, someone is surely going to buy it. Sometimes old electronics can go for a pretty penny since they might be considered retro or a collector’s item. Whatever the case may be, they can always sell your electronics off and earn money still.
Donate your old Electronics
Finally, you can always donate your old electronics. Donations can be given to local non- government organizations or centers where they might need them. You can go to local civic centers and give it off to people who really need it. This way you can help in the way of local e-waste recycling.
Any choice you make is on how to dispose of your e-waste is of utmost importance.
Countries Who Recycle E-Waste
There are a number of countries that have started the recycling of e-waste and consider it as a very serious matter.
South Africa established the e-Waste Association of South Africa (eWASA) in 2008. Under this establishment, many non-profit and profit organizations alike have been working with electronics companies and local waste collectors to responsibly dispose of electronic waste created by the country. The main focus of this establishment is to, however, recycle the waste.
China is one of the countries that has ratified the BAN agreement where they have banned the import of e-waste. One of the biggest problems with e-waste is that most developed countries will ship their waste off to developing nations. So the ratification included that e-waste should be banned. China’s Chinese State Council passed a regulation that mandated the recycling of electronic waste.
Switzerland established its first electronic recycling system in 1991. This system collected old appliances such as refrigerators, TVs, old phone etc. Over the years they evolved these systems to further include newer technologies. In 2005, it actually became possible to return all used electronic waste to where they were purchased.
What Can Be Done to Raise Awareness in Communities?
Most of the times people have no idea that they actually create electronic waste. People have trouble understanding the problem. This is because most people still believe that while they might create other sorts of waste, they cannot create electronic waste.
A lot of the other types of waste are easily recognized since we make those sort of wastes regularly. For example, you might make eggs for breakfast every day and throw away eggshells. So you can sort of create the connection in your mind, with electronics it is difficult since you are not throwing away them every day.
It would be important to actually see where this waste goes through social awareness programs. A complete step by step process where people can see where the things they throw end up can help them realize that they actually are complicit in creating this waste. Once people in our communities are aware of the source of the problem, then we can work towards the solution.
What do you do with e-waste in your community? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.