Increasing consumer base led to an increase in manufacturing units, and aggressive marketing led to increased penetration amongst this consumer base. With more players entering the manufacturing space, this soon led to cost wars – resulting in products getting cheaper with each passing day. While societies worldwide have certainly benefitted from this explosion of cheaper electronic devices; there is a flip side to this development – the issue of e-waste. Outdated, damaged electronic products have also increased, along with the problem of disposing of them without affecting the already fragile environment.
The magnitude of this problem can be understood by reading the World Economic Forum report of January 2019 – e-waste generation stood at 48.5 million tonnes in 2018; the largest waste stream in the world. While the majority of e-waste can be recycled, a mere 20% of this e-waste was recycled last year and the balance disposed of either through incineration or in landfills.
E-waste holds a fortune. Ask Apple – in 2015, the company re-captured $40 million worth of gold from recycled devices. Globally, a mere ten to fifteen percent of the gold in e-waste is recovered. This precious metal in e-waste is nearly fifty times richer than the ore dug from the ground. Ryan Morrel from CJD E-Cycling (https://www.cjdecycling.com/) explains that with most electronics, 90% of their components are recyclable and could even be worth some money if you take them to the right place. E-waste also contains mercury, lead, chromium, and cadmium – toxic substances which need to be properly processed before being disposed of safely. E-waste also contains toxic chemical flame retardants and other heavy metals. Release of these into the environment will cause long term damage to our planet.
While the growth of cheaper electronic products has resulted in benefits to society in terms of more advanced electronic goods at cheaper rates, it has also led to an escalation in solid e-waste. Landfills and incineration of e-waste is not a long term solution.
Money from Waste
Depending on where you live, there may be multiple options to dispose of your e-waste. Electronics recycling events, retailer take-back programs, and electronic recycler establishments are some of the options available to you. Taking it to a recycler establishment can also fetch you money for the discarded product. However, you must remember to erase all personal and business information from the devices before handing them over. Some recyclers offer data wiping services as part of their purchase package. Another advantage of visiting a recycler is that you may be able to purchase or exchange a recycled device at a cheap price.
Legislation on E-Waste Recycling
26 states have legislation on electronics recycling. However, there is no federal law on recycling of electronics and e-waste. While most of the 26 states have policies that require manufacturer responsibility in funding the recycling effort, California charges consumers an advanced recycling fee to fund the recycling efforts. Irrespective of whether you are allowed to throw your e-waste into the trash or not, for the sake of our environment, please recycle.