Electronic waste or E-waste is the waste of the 21st century. Electronic waste includes everything that contains cables, plugs and electronic components. The most common items that fall into electronic waste are televisions, computers, mobile phones and any household appliances from air conditioners to children's toys. When they stop working or are no longer desirable, these devices are disposed of in a landfill, and toxic substances such as lead and mercury can end up in water and soil, which poses a great danger to our environment and to humans directly. According to UN data, in 2021 each person on the planet 'produced' 7.6 kg of electronic waste, which means that 57.4 million tons were generated worldwide.
Every device ever produced leaves a so-called carbon footprint and contributes to global warming caused by human activity. If you produce a ton of laptops, potentially 10 tons of CO2 are emitted. When considering the carbon dioxide released during the lifetime of the device, it mostly occurs during production, before consumers buy the product.
In addition to the harmful impact of e-waste on climate change and the environment in general, what is less talked about is another aspect of e-waste, which is the unused potential including gold, silver, copper, platinum, aluminum and cobalt. When these listed materials end up in the waste, we are actually getting rid of very expensive materials that can be used.
Recycling is a desirable option, with certain ethical doubts, considering that developed and rich countries that have laws concerning environmental protection then send this waste to countries that are not regulated in this context and where not only the protection of the environment but also of workers is not regulated ( who are very often children), who engage in health-hazardous work.
What is currently a global recommendation for manufacturers of electronic devices is to produce them so that the materials can be reused later and are subject to easy recycling. What we can do as citizens of the world (in the meantime until 'healthier' regulations are established on a global level) are the following steps:
- Change your electronic devices less often: think again if you really need the latest iPhone or if the money can be invested in something more necessary.
- Instead of throwing away the device, try to repair it and give it to someone who can't afford it. Many of us have old laptops and mobile phones sitting in the pantry, waiting for better days, and someone could be very happy with that device.
- Try returning the device to the manufacturer; some manufacturers even offer new devices in these cases at cheaper prices. Some manufacturers have these options some don't; but maybe you are the one who starts the initiative with your inquiry.
- If you can't reuse or donate your electronic device, try to find an organization that collects and recycles electronic waste, and by doing so, you will contribute a lot to your planet.
Today's electronic devices, according to experts, have a much shorter lifespan, especially mobile phones, than they used to be, and this trend of shortening the lifespan of electronic devices will only get worse in the future. Most companies are driven by the desire to sell you a new product, and motivate you to constantly upgrade your products and that you need the very latest models. What we can all do, in addition to the above-mentioned items, is also to choose manufacturers of electrical devices that are more eco-conscious, i.e. that produce electrical devices that can be reused in a different form or whose lifespan is longer.