Contributed by Eloise Tobler of Wisetek Store.
Electronic waste, or e-waste, is quickly becoming a major concern due to our growing dependence on electronic products. As newer, sleeker products come onto the market, we’re often tempted to discard perfectly usable old models. This behaviour is not sustainable, however. The production of new components and the extraction of rare earth minerals damages the planet. E-waste that ends up in landfills pollutes the soil, water, and air.
We can all do plenty to help correct the e-waste problem. Once we understand our role in reducing e-waste, we need to encourage others to reduce, reuse or recycle e-waste as well.
What is E-Waste?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines electronic waste as “used electronics that are nearing the end of their useful life, and are discarded, donated or given to a recycler.” E-waste includes personal electronics such as televisions, computers, and mobile phones. It also includes workplace electronics, such as desktop and laptop computers, tablets, corporate-owned cell phones, photocopiers, servers, and more.
Generation of e-waste rises globally at roughly 3-4 percent (about 2.2 million tonnes) every year. According to an article in Energy Live News that is no longer online, the United States ranked second in the world in 2019 in terms of e-waste generation. It created around 7 million metric tonnes (over 7.7 million US tons) out of approximately 54 million metric tonnes (over 59 million US tons) generated globally.
How Can You Reduce Your E-Waste Levels?
When electronics enter a landfill, the environmental implications of e-waste become apparent. Toxic rare earth minerals and heavy metals including lead, mercury, cadmium, and beryllium leak into ground soils, damage water reservoirs, pollute the air, and endanger animals. Every year, the situation becomes more serious.
We all must investigate ways we can personally reduce our e-waste levels to avoid these devastating consequences. One of the first choices we can make is to reduce the number of electronic products we purchase.
Here are some other easy ways to help reduce the levels of e-waste you’re producing:
1. Put Off Upgrading Your Current Cell Phone
Don’t immediately change your phone when the next model comes out. Hang on to it as long as it works well. If every one of the 500 million smartphone users globally did the same, it would profoundly mitigate the growing e-waste crisis.
2. Share Electronic Items
Some of the equipment we buy we don’t use daily, so why not share it among family, friends, or neighbours? Tablets, for example, can be great instructional tools for young children during the daytime and also serve as entertainment for families in the evening. A family computer can also help reduce screentime for children while enabling parents to better monitor their children’s online activity.
3. Buy Quality Items That Will Last
By doing a little research, you can find the brands that build quality products. Yes, they may cost a little more, but if they last a lot longer, they are value for money and kinder to the environment. Laptops, cell phones, desktop computers and even printers and fax machines vary widely in quality. They have varying lifespans, depending on the quality of their manufacture and components.
Some products come with better warranty coverage. Some can be repaired more easily due to replaceable parts. Generally, buying higher-quality electronics means you’ll keep them for longer, which is a great benefit for the environment (and often for your wallet, too).
4. Look After Your Purchases
When you buy a new electronic item, keep it in the best condition you can. Buy protective cases for your cell phone and surge protectors for your desktop. Keep your devices operating at peak performance by keeping them updated with all firmware and/or operating system patches and updates. Caring for your electronics lets you keep them for longer, which results in less e-waste.
5. Repair It – Don’t Dump It
Our grandparents used to repair everything themselves from their socks to their cars. We are losing these skills, but where possible, try to learn simple fixes. Taking broken items to be repaired professionally is much better than throwing old things in the trash. Buy the upgrades to software or purchase more storage if it extends the life of tablets, laptops, and phones.
Editor’s note: Unfortunately, some manufacturers decline to repair items after a certain age even if the repair would be simple and straightforward.
6. Reuse Old Stuff
Reusing electronic items is great news for the planet. Things are reusable by you or by other people, if you don’t throw them away. You can even learn a new skill by refurbishing an old computer or laptop that would otherwise have gathered dust in your garage.
7. Sell Your E-Waste
There are many places to sell unused goods – you can have a yard sale, put them on eBay, list them on social media markets or advertise on Craigslist. Don’t ask too much for your old items and they’ll be snapped up. Even broken things sell, as long as you’re honest about the fault. Industrious buyers use non-working products for spare parts. Don’t forget to wipe clean any data if you pass on phones, computers, or gaming consoles.
8. Reuse Part of Your Old Item
If you’ve decided to buy a new phone, use your old one for its screen for security cameras or baby monitor, for example. If you want to reduce e-waste when you buy a new laptop, consider using an old one as a second monitor or harvesting the RAM or SSD to use in your new laptop.
9. Donate It So Someone Else
Give all types of older tech to charities that can make use of them. Some organizations upgrade the software to make laptops and desktops usable again.
10. When All Else Fails, Recycle
When you decide that the old stuff has got to go, don’t send it to the landfill. Take your products to a nearby recycling facility where they can be broken down and recycled.
Editor’s note: in the US, anyway, e-waste legally counts as hazardous waste. If you can’t locate an electronics recycling facility, take unwanted electronics to your hazardous waste recycling center. In many states, it is illegal to send e-waste to the landfill.]
11. Trade It In
Big companies have stepped up and now offer recycling services. Some give you money off your new purchase for your trade-in. Others will take the item off your hands, no questions asked. Apple and Best Buy both offer e-waste recycling services, for example.
12. Local Recycling Initiatives
Counties and states sometimes provide residents with drop-off sites for e-waste . Consult your city/county website for more information on e-waste recycling initiatives near you.
Play Your Part in Reducing E-Waste Today
We cannot continue to produce e-waste at the same rate as we have been doing. If, as consumers, we alter the way we buy electronics, manufacturers will have incentive to adapt. If we search for quality products that can be repaired, there are plenty of sensible choices available to us. All of us can play an important part in solving the e-waste crisis.
Author Bio: This article was written by Eloise Tobler of Wisetek Store. Wisetek Store was created to give our customers access to safe, highly quality refurbished laptops & IT equipment.