Raising Awareness about E-Waste on International E-Waste Day
Today is International E-Waste Day, organised by the WEEE Forum, it is an essential reminder that each of us have a part to play to help reduce the amount of electrical waste and help make the IT economy more circular. Last year over 120 organizations from 50 countries worldwide supported this important awareness day and you can learn more here. This year’s theme is Consumer is Key to the Circular Economy.
The WEEE Forum is an international association of non-profit and sector-mandated e-waste collection schemes. Its mission is to join together various e-waste stakeholders worldwide to promote the correct treatment of e-waste to enable proper reuse and recycling.
Pascal Leroy, Director General of the WEEE Forum commented: “There are so many factors that play a role in making the electronics sector resource efficient and circular. But one thing stands out: as long as citizens don’t return their used, broken gear to officially recognized collection points, or sell it on, or donate it to charity, we will need to continue mining the materials, which is much more damaging for the environment.”
This year, each person on the planet will produce on average 16.7 lbs of e-waste, generating 54.7 million tons worldwide. This is predicted to increase to 74.7 million tons by 2030.
The average amount of e-waste per person in the US is much higher than the global average at 46lbs/person. According to the EPA, approximately 416,000 cell phones are thrown away every day in the US. It’s estimated that up to 40 % of the heavy metals in our landfills come from e-waste. It’s evident that this is having a detrimental effect on the environment and more action needs to be taken. For instance, in 2019 the recycling of iron, aluminum, and copper from e-waste contributed to a net saving of 15 million tons of CO2.
Most e-waste is comprised of personal devices such as computers, screens, smartphones, tablets and TVs. Just 17.4% of this e-waste is properly collected, treated and recycled. The rest of e-waste is either placed in landfill, burned or illegally traded and treated in a sub-standard way. The resulting effect is a huge loss of valuable and critical raw materials from the supply chain. It also causes severe societal, health, and environmental consequences through illegal shipments of waste to developing nations.
Solving the E-Waste Challenge
The WEEE regulations have helped to increase the rate of e-waste recycling. These regulations place financial responsibility for WEEE recycling on producers of new electrical items.
In the US, some states have enacted legislation around proper disposal and recycling of e-waste, and many states use the Producer Responsibility approach. This approach requires manufacturers to provide information on their electronics recycling processes and a location of all authorized e-waste drop-off sites and recyclers in your area.
It is reassuring that some solutions are being put in place to solve the challenge of ever-growing amounts of e-waste. Recycling is not always the ideal solution however, as it is unable to fully recover all of the critical materials in IT equipment for reuse. A great way to reduce levels of e-waste is to reuse rather than use and destroy. The ideal solution to e-waste is to ensure equipment lasts longer by refurbishing, reusing, reconfiguring, and remanufacturing at systems level. This avoids the need to mine, manufacture and transport these critical materials around the world.
For an even greater impact on helping to reduce e-waste, purchasing refurbished equipment over new technology reduces the impact of the IT industry on critical raw materials and helps to create a circular IT economy. Read more about what we’re doing to help contribute to a circular IT economy.