How to Manage E-Waste: Facts and Easy Hacks
Let’s talk about e-waste. Have you heard of it?
Maybe, maybe not. In the zero waste movement, reusing and recycling plastic, glass, paper, and metals have become the norm. But there’s far less attention given to dealing with electronic items.
E-waste is defined as electronic and electric equipment (EEE) that ends up trashed. Basically, it’s any discarded product that operates with a battery or plug.
E-waste causes mountains (literally) of problems for societies. The world dumps millions of tons of them each year.
It’s distressing, but not surprising. After all, close to 4 billion people use the Internet. With the whole world essentially owning a gadget or two, there’s no way that e-waste will not accumulate.
In fact, the Global E-Waste Monitor report estimates as much as 44.7 million metric tons of e-waste – a total of 4,500 Eiffel Towers!
Facts About E-Waste
Here are some key facts surrounding e-waste:
- Globally, e-waste is still growing at around 4-5% rate. By 2020 it’s expected to exceed 50 million metric tons!
- The world’s e-waste is composed of small electronic equipment (16.8 million metric tons), large equipment (9.1 million metric tons), freezing and cooling equipment (7.6 million metric tons), screens and monitors (6.6 million metric tons), small IT equipment (3.9 million metric tons) and lamps (0.7 million metric tons).
- In the US and Canada, every person produces approximately 20kg of e-waste each year.
- A typical American household has 24 electronic devices on average.
- Americans spent $71 billion on telecommunication devices in 2019 – five times higher than what was spent in 2010 (inflation rate taken into account).
- Less than half of all US states have laws banning e-waste dumping alongside regular household trash.
- Creating just one computer takes at least 1.5 tons of water, 48 lbs of chemicals, and 530 lbs of fossil fuels. Recycling 1 million laptop computers can save enough energy to run 3,500 homes for a year.
How to Manage Your E-Waste
You might be thinking that you’re just a small player amongst the billions of people who are all accumulating e-waste.
And you’re right. Compared to massive businesses, small groups and individuals create only a fraction of e-waste.
But we can and must always choose to contribute to the solution. Little steps do add up.
Here are a few ways in which you can lessen e-waste:
1. Keep your electronics organized
Do you have that drawer full of random wires and USB ports from God knows when?
Yeah. We all have been guilty of this at some point. Given the number of gadgets we stash away, it’s no wonder that we forget what we have and buy new items.
Make an inventory of your current electronic devices and accessories. Identify which ones you’re still using, and make sure they are well organized and easily accessible.
And if you can, just share cords, connectors, and other equipment rather than buying the same device multiple times.
2. Take care of your devices
We’re all practically glued to our smartphones and other gadgets, but how many of us actually handle these devices with care?
The fact that significant raw materials, i.e., raw metals and plastic derived from petrol are used every time one of these phones or laptops is manufactured, it makes sense to extend the life of electronics you already own.
So don’t treat your electronics as if they are disposable. Take care of them, people!
Put on a case, get a screen protector, take care of the battery by not overcharging, and don’t drop or wet your devices. Enough said.
3. Donate or sell devices you’re not using
Research suggests that of the 20-50 million metric tons of e-waste thrown each year, a measly 12.5% are recycled. And even more upsetting is that most of these discarded consumer electronics are still in working condition!
Curbing e-waste is as easy as making sure that your working gadgets don’t end up in landfills.
Sell or donate. Find buyers online via eBay, Craigslist or social media through your own personal contacts. Check also with local retailers if they have a buyback program or a drop-off site program for electronics. You can sell/donate to those who will either use them or resell the parts.
4. Check for e-cycling centers
If you have the time for it, find out if you have local groups that get electronics for recycling. Usually membership is free, and is run by local volunteers. They can get your e-waste, specifically stuff you can no longer donate or sell.
If you have old Apple devices, for instance, you can check out locations where Daisy can take care of them for you.
5. Invest in energy-saving appliances
While this is not necessarily about the physical e-waste you have to deal with, energy consumption of daily household appliances is also something we need to think about.
If you have appliances that need replacing, try to opt for models that are awarded the Energy Star recognition. This is a rating by the Environmental Protection Agency that certifies not only environment-friendly manufacturing but also efficiency in electricity consumption.
These models usually cost a bit more than others, but if you compute the monthly power savings in the long term, the added cost in the price tag will be worth it.
E-waste isn’t just a concern for multinational giants and businesses – it should be everybody’s business.
Being more mindful of what electronics we buy and what we discard can go a long way in cutting e-waste and ultimately helping the planet – our only one!
What other tips can you think of that can tackle e-waste? Tell us in the comments below.