As a society, we are obsessed with our gadgets — TVs, computers, tablets, and, probably most importantly, smartphones. When we buy a new device, it almost goes without saying that we’ll use it just until the next product upgrade release, which means that devices aren’t used until the end of their lifespans. And even if we’d use them until the last possible moment, it still means that once an electronic device reaches the end of its useful life, it becomes waste.
Every year, 20 to 50 million metric tons of electronic waste are thrown in the landfills, which is the same as throwing away 800 laptops every single second. E-waste is just 2% of the garbage in landfills in the United States. Yet, it accounts for 70% of all harmful waste.
Once you have that in mind, it may come as a surprise that only 17.4% of the 53.6 million tons of e-waste dumped in 2019 were correctly disposed of, according to a United Nations assessment. It sounds pretty scary.
With new electronics hitting the market every day, it’s essential to be informed and responsible when throwing away our old and irreparable electronic devices.
Here’s what to know about electronic waste, why it’s essential to dispose of it properly, and how to do so.
What Is Electronic Waste?
In a nutshell, e-waste is a term that refers to any discarded electrical or electronic equipment. This covers both functional and damaged things that are discarded or given to a charity reseller.
The term includes anything from small electronic devices such as mobile phones and earbuds to heavier equipment such as refrigerators.
Here is a list of everyday electronics that get discarded:
- Desktop computers and laptops
- Cell phones
- Appliances (microwaves, blenders, etc.)
- Video game systems
- DVD players
Because of the fast advancement of technology today and rising customer demand, many items approach the end of their useful lives after just a few years of usage. As a result, electronic garbage is currently the fastest-growing waste source on the planet. This type of waste is especially harmful, as highly toxic compounds naturally leak from the metals when e-waste is buried.
Proper Methods for Electronic Waste Disposal
Our gadgets and other appliances aren’t built to last forever. A laptop, or a smartphone, typically doesn’t last more than four and a half years. We’re stuck in a continual loop of upgrading and replacing our electronics as soon as they break down. Because of that, it’s crucial to stay responsible when it comes to disposing of these devices.
Ever since the electronics boom in the 20th century, there has been an ongoing debate on the best way to dispose of used and unwanted items. The dangerous truth is, very few individuals are informed of responsible and proper ways to get rid of their gadgets. Toxic chemicals, including mercury, lead, and cadmium, may be found in e-waste — improperly disposed of, they can harm the environment.
If you want to get rid of your old, unneeded devices, here are your choices for disposing of them in an environmentally friendly manner.
Before throwing away your device, be sure to erase any personal or sensitive data using a hard factory reset or another authorized technique. Cybercrime involving discarded electronics is a real thing. You don’t want to take any risks, so it’s better to be cautious.
If your device still works, back up all of your data before disposing of it.
Keep in mind that it’s not enough to manually delete everything if you want to erase data permanently. Smartphones are usually okay after resetting the operating system to factory defaults, but other systems such as Windows and Android come with different considerations.
Even though electronic devices typically include hazardous elements, they’re also made of plenty of recyclable materials such as metals, plastic, and glass. The easiest way to avoid putting old electronics in landfills is to use recycling facilities and firms specializing in properly recycling electronics. There are a plethora of nonprofits and local groups that can assist you in recycling your old gadgets. Rechargeable batteries and cell phones may be dropped off at Call2Recycle drop-off sites all around the United States.
Did you know that some brands have e-recycling programs? You can bring them your old gadget, and as a result, you get a great deal on buying a new one. This will save you money and keep the environment safer.
Find the right place to donate to and make sure they have practices in place to dispose of electronics properly.
Just because you’ve finished using your gadget doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be enjoyed by someone else. Store prices are increasing these days, and there are a lot of individuals who would be willing to buy an older gadget that’s still in excellent working condition. This option is incredibly convenient for those who’d like to buy the newest version of a phone or a laptop but still have a perfectly working two-year-old device.
Some websites and repair shops will buy old phones and electronics from you, even if your equipment is damaged.
Like recycling programs, many electronics firms have an exchange program where they will accept your old device when you upgrade it to a newer model and occasionally even give you a discount on your new purchase.
If your devices are fully operational and working, why not make someone happy by donating them? While the procedure is a little bit more complex than simply dropping it off at a local thrift store, some NGOs and charities would happily welcome electronic contributions. The World Computer Exchange and eBay for Charity are two organizations that will gladly take your retired gadgets.
Repercussions of Not Disposing of Electronic Waste Properly
When e-waste is dumped in a landfill, minuscule traces of it might dissolve into the foul sludge that penetrates the landfill. These residues of toxic elements eventually settle into the earth under the landfill. This is referred to as “leaching.” The more e-waste and metals disposed of at landfills, the more these residual hazardous toxins end up in groundwater. The dangerous water underneath the dump does not end there. It flows into the groundwater and the supplies of all freshwater in the surrounding region.
Direct contact with harmful compounds that leak from e-waste might pose health concerns, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Those compounds include lead, chromium, cadmium, polychlorinated biphenyls, and brominated flame retardants. Inhalation of harmful gases and the buildup of chemicals in water, soil, and food might pose a real danger.
This endangers not just humans but also land and marine wildlife. The hazards are especially severe in underdeveloped nations, since many developed countries transfer their e-waste there. According to research, worldwide e-waste has a negative impact not only on the individuals who deal with it but also on the people who live nearby.
Partnering Only With Reliable Companies
There is an inevitable downside to the rise of electronic devices in our daily lives: e-waste.
The repercussions of not properly disposing of devices that are no longer in use can be pretty severe, both in terms of health and the environment. As you safely dispose of your devices, be careful to format your electronics before discarding them, as the last thing you want to deal with is identity theft.
It’s vital for us all to do our part in conserving our planet as consumers and businesses.
When choosing a partner for your business, such as an EMS provider, make sure they’re aware of proper methods for disposing of electronic waste (and that they’re implementing them).
Once you make sure your potential EMS provider knows how to handle e-waste, you can focus on other things you might look for in a manufacturing partner.