What happens to your old phone once you've picked up a newer, flashier model? Do you give it to a mate who dropped theirs in the bath last week? Do you leave it to clutter up your drawers for the next five years? Do you toss it in the trash? Or do you recycle it responsibly?
While some of us are responsible about how we dispose of our technology, many more of us are not – especially on a global scale. It's one of the biggest e-waste problems out there.
Packed with valuable, reusable ingredients such as copper, gold, silver and palladium, technology such as laptops, tablets, TVs and smartphones are very worthwhile recyclables, so responsible recycling makes economic sense. But one of the problems of e-waste is that it's made up of devices which are difficult to process, featuring heavy metals and toxic materials which must be handled properly.
With global e-waste predicted to hit 65.4 million tonnes this year (2017), it's time we all took action on e-waste problems and begin disposing of our electronic waste carefully. Here's why...
It takes a lot of energy to make electronics and to source the materials which go into them. In fact, recycling 1 million laptops would be enough to offset the energy used by 3,657 US homes annually. This wasted energy is one of the major problems of e-waste when it isn't handled properly.
It also takes a lot of work to mine and manufacture materials for electronics. Metals, plastics, glass – creating all of these materials has a significant impact on our planet, but Americans currently toss $60 million worth of gold and silver when they throw away their phones every year.
By recycling and reusing these materials responsibly we can reduce the need for mining and manufacturing – cutting greenhouse gas emissions, reducing air and water pollution and preserving natural resources too.
The people who mine for materials, manufacture parts and assemble our high-tech devices frequently work on the far side of the world, which means it’s only too easy for us to overlook to sometimes dangerous or unfair conditions they labour in for very little money.
Other workers are now suffering on the other side of the coin as nations begin to ship their irresponsibly recycled electronic waste to poorer nations where people dismantle technology unsafely, coming into contact with nasty chemicals from cathode ray tubes, plasma technology and LCD technology.
Exporting waste is frequently undertaken illegally, even by the UK. As far back as 2003, Britain shipped 23,000 metric tonnes of undeclared electronic waste to the Far East, India, Africa and China.
Time to recycle responsibly
Recycling our e-waste responsibly is essential if we want to protect people and protect our planet. Setting up quality recycling facilities and creating jobs in these plants is one route which will ensure materials are saved for reuse, while recyclers are safe from harmful ingredients. For more information about e-waste problems and to find out how you can help, check out these resources:
Why toss it when you can fix it? Save yourself money and save the planet too. Lovefone can sort out your smartphone in no time.
March 16, 2017
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