As technology advances and we upgrade our devices to advance with it, what happens to our old electronic devices, and why is it a problem?
What is eWaste?
E-Waste refers to electronic products that are broken, unwanted, or nearing the end of their usefulness. Many things fall under the category of e-waste, such as refrigerators, smart TVs, phones, tablets, etc. Once they have outlived their usefulness, these electronic devices end up in landfills.
Why is eWaste a Problem?
There are several reasons why eWaste is a problem.
- Toxic Materials – Modern electronics we use every day are safe to use, but this quickly changes once electronics are tossed into landfills and begin breaking down. Many toxic chemicals in electronics, like beryllium, cadmium, mercury, and lead, leech into the ground below landfills and contaminate the earth.
- Water Contamination – Chemicals from landfills and other places that break down electronics can contaminate sources of freshwater and oceans nearby. This can harm both humans and wildlife alike and make us really sick.
- Air Pollution – Electronics are also sometimes incinerated, which releases harmful chemicals and pollutants into the air we breathe, which can be damaging to our respiratory system and cause long-term damage.
Fortunately, there are steps we can start taking today to help minimize ewaste in the future and eliminate what ends up in landfills.
Design Better Products
One way manufacturers can start reducing eWaste is to design electronics that are safer and recyclable. They can start developing biodegradable electronic units, ones free of all the harsh chemicals.
Recycling electronic devices is certainly the better option, but for some, it can be hard because either they don’t know where to recycle, or there are no recycling centers near them that will take the devices. If companies make it easier for consumers to recycle their old electronics, in the future, we might be able to see fewer of these devices in landfills.
The purpose of a circular economy is to keep the products and materials and circulation at their highest value at all times, or at least for as long as possible. This way, products are made for long-term use, reducing waste. If we shifted into a circular economy, electronics would be built to last longer.
Extend the Life of Your Electronics
As a society, we’ve developed a habit of instantly upgrading to newer models because they are advertised to us as better than what we currently have. In reality, we can still get much use from our devices. If we change this mentality, we can hold on to functional devices a lot longer and eliminate a lot of what goes into landfills.
Extended Producer Responsibility
Those who manufacture and produce electronic devices will certainly become more responsible with them if they are responsible for their management and Disposal at the end of their use. They can also be held accountable for their products’ damage to the environment.
Ways to Prevent eWaste Now
We can also do things today to start preventing ewaste in our lives.
- Donate or Sell – Instead of tossing our old electronics into the garbage, there are ways where we can either donate these devices or even sell them for a quick buck. There are options to sell devices online or in person.
- Find a Responsible Recycler – It can be hard to find recycling companies that take on old electronics, but they are out there. Find a responsible recycler who will do good with your old devices.
- Consume Less – Sometimes, we buy what we don’t need. If you already have a laptop, do you really need a tablet? After all, they provide the same functions. Our constant buying comes from a want, not a need. If you have a perfectly good electronic device that works, you don’t need to keep buying more.
- Extend the Life – We can also prevent e-waste by taking better care of our electronic devices. By cases for your phones and tablets, keep your devices clean, and avoid overcharging their batteries.
- Repair – There are times when our devices break down on us, and the immediate reaction is to get rid of them and replace them. But sometimes, these devices only require a simple repair that can save you money and make your device last longer. Instead of immediately dismissing it, see what’s wrong with it.