It’s International E-Waste Day and we’d like to raise awareness of the relevance of recycling electronic waste. A record of 53.6 million metric tonnes (Mt) of electronic waste was generated worldwide in 2019, up 21% percent in just five years, according to the UN’s Global E-Waste Monitor 2020. It is estimated that by 2030 this number will reach 74Mt! Only 17.4 percent of 2019’s e-waste was collected and recycled.
On average, each person in the UK buys almost three new electrical items each year
- or around 170 million nationally. We’re surrounded by electronic devices, we own smartphones, TVs, laptops, appliances, irons, routers, etc., but when these devices stop working and are ready to be disposed of, we don’t always recycle them and leave them in our ‘tech draw’ at home. No matter what the electronic device is, there will be some part of it that can be recycled.
Why is electronics recycling important?
E-waste contains many high value and scarce materials, such as gold, platinum, cobalt, and high quantities of aluminium and tin. There are 80 times as much gold in a tonne of smartphones as in a tone of mineral from a gold mine. The improper handling of e-waste is resulting in a significant loss of scarce and valuable raw materials, and some of them are difficult to extract.
If you would like to step up and start recycling your devices now, you can find the nearest location to where you live using this link.
And if you are recycling your smartphone, the Dutch social enterprise Fairphone
has launched a recycling program available for any phone. Fairphone
also has a modular design that makes it easier for you to repair and upgrade, extending your phone’s life further reducing e-waste.
Delivering a zero e-waste circular economy
The used device market is growing fast and this is changing the market. Market saturation, slowing technology change and a slowing upgrade cycle is an opportunity for longer-lasting devices and greater reuse.
Manufacturers are also beginning to enter the market, with Apple offering a trade-in service for iPhones and iPads in the UK, US and India, and Samsung running one for smartphones in India. Just keeping a smartphone in use for an additional year could dramatically reduce its CO2 impact by 31 per cent.
Recycling e-waste can help to reduce it as well as saving money. The message we’d like to send is to hold onto your electronic devices for as long as possible before recycling as extending the life of products and re-using components brings an even larger economic benefit. And when your phone or laptop stops working, if you can’t repair it, make sure you recycle it responsibly.