FEBRUARY 10, 2015 BY
This has been submitted by a guest blogger, Anne Staley, and is focused on E-waste on a global level. To make progress on a more local level, we encourage you to read our February VV article, ask our state leaders to promote product stewardship policy, and as individuals, act responsibly in purchasing and recycling your electronics. Please keep in mind that Colorado has a new law stated that Electronic Waste can no longer be taken to the landfill and must be disposed of through an E-Waste provider. YVSC helps to host several E-Waste events throughout the year – you can look under our Upcoming Events tab for those.
The 4 Angles to E-waste Recycling
Today, we live in a world that is so dependent on technology that we can’t even go 5 minutes without looking at our phones. From mp3 players to tablets to laptops to several different types of cell phones, there are easily a thousand pieces of technology that are subjected to upgrades every year.
Let us not forget the fast rate at which home appliances are discarded as well. As soon as a new and improved microwave oven is launched, we are looking to get rid of our old one and go out and buy the brand new thing.
- Alarming E-waste Statistics
There has been a steady increase in the amount of electronic waste generated worldwide in the past few years. In 2010, we generated 2,440,000 tons of e-waste (of which a mere 27% was recycled). By the end of 2012, this figure had reached 3,420,000 tons. Statistics show that with the rapid rate of technology growth, we are estimated to produce a shocking 65 million tons of e-waste by 2017, according to this study conducted by a partnership of United Nations organizations, industry, governments, and scientists.
If these numbers aren’t ringing alarm bells in your heads now, I don’t know what will!
- Green Initiatives by Big Companies
The news isn’t all bad. A lot of multinational companies have realized that e-waste is a long standing issue, and have come up with a few of their own solutions to tackle the problem head-on.
Apple, a brand that needs no introduction, allows its customers to bring in old phones, tablets, laptops, PCs, iPods (basically any Apple product), and takes care of the recycling these electronics. Some outlets even give customers a discount on new products to encourage them to bring in their old and damaged ones.
Sony allows you to use their services to recycle any Sony or non-Sony product through them. You can also recycle all kinds of batteries with Sony.
We commend Sony for their launch of a worldwide recycling program that has resulted in 138 drop-off centers across the United States where customers can drop off their used Sony products absolutely free of charge.
That’s not all – Sony has been taking major leaps in terms of eco-friendliness. Read more about Sony’s green initiatives.
You don’t have to be a big brand name or own a multinational corporation in order to make a difference and recycle e-waste. There are plenty of recycling companies across the United States that deal with e-waste and recycle it efficiently.
Every city is equipped with at least 50 e-waste recyclers. Some have branches across the U.S. as well as in other parts of the world (Sims Metal Management, for instance). They also accept e-waste and will pay you for it as well! Take advantage of the services they provide and start recycling your e-waste today!
- E-waste Recycling Challenges
The biggest challenge faced with e-waste recycling today is that more than 80% of the discarded electronics in the United States are sent to developing countries in Asia and Africa, and they are then dismantled there using crude and unsafe methods.
Another major issue is that some electronic devices contain certain parts that are either harmful to recycle or that cost too much to recycle. For example, cathode ray tubes, generally found in television sets and computer monitors, are very expensive to recycle.
Recyclers are also not too keen on recycling the plastic parts in electronics as the cost of processing them is too high. And unfortunately, almost every electronic device has a certain percentage of plastic in it.
- The Need to Design Recyclable Products
As is obvious from the aforementioned points, there is a need to manufacture products that are designed to be recycled. Unfortunately, most companies design their electronics to be discarded, and hence, do not pay much attention to the recyclability of the product.
Let us take a leaf out of Hewlett-Packard’s book. They have put certain recycling programs in place and take a lot of trouble to design recyclable products by eliminating all materials that are not recyclable (at the manufacturing stage itself).
No matter how many recycling drives are started by large companies, the fact remains that those products which cannot be recycled, will not be recycled, and will end up occupying precious landfill space. So it is essential that we first start to design products that are at least 80% recyclable before we start pushing for our customers to recycle their e-waste.
All said and done, the problem of e-waste is not an unsolvable one, and many companies are already well on their way to handling this problem – for good.
Anne Staley is an independent environmentalist who likes to express her thoughts and beliefs through the written word. Her motto in life is to better the lives of others through the knowledge she shares. She loves nature and urges her readers to go green. She shares her thoughts through creative writing and blogs.