How is the Electronics Industry Combating its Waste?
Posted: Oct 06, 2018
We’re chucking away over 20 million tons of e-waste every year. And, according to The Guardian, this is set to grow to 50 million this year. With the digital revolution pushing out new products all the time, we need to have a hard look at what happens to our discarded smartphones or laptops — they cannot continue to head to the landfills of the world. Is it as simple as just recycling? What else can the sector do to address the problem?Recycle
Did you know that, according to waste electrical and electronic equipment regulations in the EU and the UK, a retailer of electrical goods is bound by law to offer customers a means to dispose of their old electrical products if they have sold them a newer version of that item? This regulation covers physical stores, internet stores, mail order items, and phone orders. The service must be free too, apart from transport costs, which the retailer can charge for.
Of course, there are a number of recycling services available outside of this that consumers can make use of, and sometimes, even receive money from. The Guardian even suggests stockpiling old e-waste items until the country establishes stronger recycling programmes in line with the projected 2020 target of 85% waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) recycled.Mining for gold
Remember all those "cash for gold" adverts that used to be all over the television a few years ago? Well, they might make a comeback — only this time, instead of flogging that old gold bracelet from your ex, you might be cashing in the gold inside your old phone.
According to Dell’s vice chairman, Jeff Clarke, "There is up to 800 times more gold in a ton of motherboards than a ton of ore from the earth." Dell reported that a whopping $60 million of gold and silver falls into the bin in the US alone via discarded phones.
It’s not just gold inside your phone either. That sleek case hides copper, tin, brass, aluminium, and lead too. Could mining our e-waste be an industry all of its own, with a profit to be made?Reuse instead of recycle?
Many sources have advised that recycling should, in fact, be a last resort, and that repairing and fixing electronics ought to be the prime route for discarded electronic equipment. But, according to a report from Wrap, nearly half of the people asked considered it a waste of time to repair broken equipment, and that it would be more cost-effective to simply replace the item.
But why should we consider repairing as the first resort for WEEE? Free repair manual website, iFixit, lists the following benefits to repairing electronics rather than recycling:
- Jobs — if there’s an emphasis on repairing items, we’ll need workers who can repair said items. This would be a great benefit to improve unemployment levels.
- Benefits to developing countries — perhaps some repaired items would struggle to find use in the developed world, but for developing countries, repaired electronics can provide a much-needed function.
- And electronics for all — repaired electronics are cheaper than the latest upgrade. This means more people will be able to afford gadgets at a lower price, without needing to commit to the high cost of a new model.
Of course, one way to lower e-waste would be to prevent its creation at all.
Reports suggest that we may be taking steps to do just that. Over in the US, the creation of a paper-based battery has made its way onto news websites, and the team behind its creation claim it can degrade when disposed of without any additional agent to aid it. A biodegradable battery would certainly make an impact on the world’s e-waste problem, as 98% of the UK’s batteries are not recycled.
If there’s scope to have biodegradable batteries, could all of the electronics industry be revolutionised by eco-friendly components beyond just batteries? If the whole structure of electronic equipment had the capacity to be degraded safely at the end of its life, the issue of e-waste would not doubt see an improvement. But then again, is repairing the way forward, as this would provide jobs and cheaper electronic gadgets for people who otherwise would not be able to afford them?
This article has been researched and created by 8 yard skip hire supplier Reconomy.
This piece was written by the copywriting team at Mediaworks Online Marketing.