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 per cent of e-waste is illegally dumped.
Asia and Africa 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.
5 Important reasons for correctly managing e-waste
- Conserves Natural Resources.
Recycling of electronic waste recovers materials from old the 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 recycled. The total resource opportunity cost is $65 billion of raw materials.
- Protects the Environment
E-waste can be managed by Safe recycling of old electronics ensures there are good management and control of toxic chemicals like mercury and lead.
- 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 in that dark cupboard’, one can donate to their family or friends who cannot afford one.
- 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 helps conserve the space occupied by these waste.
- 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. Change should start with us as individuals and those in an influential position at 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 needing to dispose of e-waste should be doing so as a sign of good business practice… but also to be noted, they should be doing so to ensure their data is irrecoverable. Australian companies spend billions on cyber security to protect their data + IP, however the same precautions should be taken when disposing of equipment as data is easily recovered if in the wrong hands.
In conclusion, it is actually relatively cheap to responsibly dispose of truckloads of outdated e-waste and protect data. 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.