Before exploring the benefits of E-waste recycling, it would be better to understand exactly what E-waste means. It is no secret that the tech revolution intensified by countless innovations has made our lives better but unsustainable usage and disposal of old electronics yield a serious problem that cannot be just ignored. Before exploring the problems of unregulated e-waste disposal, let us first understand what e-waste means.
What is E-waste?
E-waste is discarded electronic materials like laptops, TVs, or mobile phones, which no longer work for their intended purpose because they have outlived their usage life-cycle but can be recycled or made to make new products. What is termed as “e-waste” is not waste, rather it is electronic equipment that is available for reuse or recycles back into the market.
Is this an issue?
In Australia, 500,000 laptops and computers were recycled 2006. This figure may seem large, but it cannot be compared to the 1.6 million computers that were thrown away, 1.8 million kept in storage, and the 5.3 million electronics sitting on the shelves, unused and gathering dust. It is also estimated that 2.4 citizens of Australia buy new computers each day for personal use alone.
Globally we’re on track to tally up more than 45 million tons of e-waste in 2019, 700,000 tonnes of which is generated in Australia. The amount of global e-waste is expected to increase by almost 17% to 52.2 million tonnes in 2021, or around 8% every year. In Australia, e-waste is also the fastest-growing component of the municipal solid waste stream, growing three times faster than municipal waste.
Globally, up to 80 percent of e-waste is illegally dumped which is a tragedy given that there are many benefits of recycling e-waste that won’t be enjoyed if managed carelessly. This is why people must learn how to reduce e-waste and only dispose of the waste in an eco-friendly manner when disposal is necessary.
Asia and African e-waste junkyards are some of the most toxic places on Earth, leaking deadly substances into the environment and causing deaths from lead poisoning.
E-waste poses Health risks like kidney disease and brain damage. China has the highest levels of cancer dioxins in the world. It is estimated in the village of Guiyu seven out of ten children tests positive for lead poisoning. This is due to water contamination, and the villagers are encouraged to get water from neighboring towns. Dangerous metals chemicals like mercury, lead, and cadmium ends up in the soil or underground water posing health problems to humans.
Five Major Benefits of Recycling E-Waste
- Conserves Natural Resources.
Recycling electronic waste recovers materials from old electronics that can be used to make new products. This helps us save energy, reduce greenhouse gas, save resources and reduce pollution, by extracting fewer raw materials from the environment. Around 10% of the world’s gold and 30% of silver goes into making electronics, but only 15% to 20% of the 45 million tonnes of e-waste created every year are managed using safe e-waste disposal practices and recycled. The total resource opportunity cost is $65 billion for raw materials.
- Protects the Environment
Proper electronic waste management prevents harmful chemicals like Mercury and Lead from reaching the land and causing serious ailments. Controlling such toxic elements reduces water pollution, & land pollution and has a multitude of environmental benefits. Protection of the environment helps not just people but wildlife as well. Conservation of vital resources such as water, land, and air can improve the overall quality of living.
- Helps Others
According to Wirefly.org, people tend to change their mobile phones after every 18-24 months. Instead of ‘throwing away’ your mobile or ‘indefinitely storing it in that dark cupboard’, one can donate to their family or friends who cannot afford one. The idea of reusing the devices is central to the recycling process and people should definitely be doing this. Just because a device will be useless to you does not mean it will be just as useless to someone else. Therefore, you can help people by giving them the devices that you plan to throw in a bin and help the environment at the same time.
- Saves landfill space
E-waste is the fastest-growing type of waste stream growing up to 4% faster than regular waste, and growing at 8% per year. Managing E-waste and effective electronics recycling helps conserve the space occupied by this waste which is why e-waste recycling needs to be prioritized. It is evident that spending time with nature in open spaces is good for mental health. Especially in big cities, getting open space and fresh air is rare. If e-waste is properly recycled, the space for landfill can be a healthy and open space. As per requirement, such spaces can be used to build houses which is more useful than just a junkyard full of e-waste. So, recycling electronic waste saves landfill space which has several benefits as discussed.
- Eliminates Health Hazards
Managing e-wastes will help reduce future health hazards like young children getting lead poisoning. It is not too late to address and come up with strategies for managing e-waste as the impact of e-waste on community health is significant. Change should start with us as individuals and those in influential positions in businesses, and we should not wait for the government to come up with laws and strategies. By taking the problem into our hands, we will be building a better tomorrow for our future generation.
Businesses requiring safe e-waste disposal, computer recycling, or any other kinds of IT Assets Disposal should be doing so as a sign of ethical business practice… but also to be noted, they should be doing so to ensure they are ESG compliant. Australian companies spend billions on cyber security to protect their data + IP, however, the same precautions should be taken when disposing of IT equipment as data is easily recovered if in the wrong hands.
In conclusion, there are many benefits of recycling e-waste for the environment, and human health and these benefits certainly incentivize the government, citizens, as well as businesses to adopt the e-waste recycling process. Some companies will securely wipe the hard drives and even provide cash back for the equipment if it still has some life left in it, this means your business could actually come out with money when you thought it would be an expense.
Now that you have understood enough about the benefits of e-waste recycling, you should prioritize it in your IT plan. Businesses with sensitive data, require specialized services and absolutely need an E-waste recycling service from an accredited company like Eco IT Solutions.
How does e-waste affect the environment?
Every electronic product ever produced has a carbon footprint, it would be far better if the electronics were reused or refurbished prior to being considered waste. When electronics are considered as waste and not recycled, those precious metals may be lost indefinitely or possibly forever.
How does e-waste impact the economy?
E-waste cannot be realistically brought down to zero, however if responsibly recycled can allow for precious metals to be reused and redistributed for new technology to be created. This is called the 'circular economy'. Some companies have an e-waste disposal plan in place prior to procuring their equipment to ensure ESG compliance.
How can we benefit from e-waste?
The benefits of e-waste can only be harnessed if they are properly managed and recycled. Valuable metals can be recovered from the waste products and the improvement of environmental conditions and community health.