E-Waste Problems: How Can We Help the Environment?

E-Waste Problems: How Can We Help the Environment?

1st Feb 2023

Gadgets are prevalent in today's technologically driven world. However, this scenario also means more electronic waste, as buying and replacing devices every few years is now a common practice.

Disposed gadgets or pieces of electronic equipment contribute to waste, causing ecological problems worldwide. The energy needed to produce technology, the materials used, and the methods companies use to dispose of them add to the growing amount of e-waste.

The infographic below presents a picture of the global e-waste problem and how you can help minimize it.

E-Waste Fast Facts

These facts highlight e-waste issues and their impact on the environment.

  • Worldwide e-waste disposal is 20 to 50 million metric tons annually

According to a 2019 report by the United Nations, the world discards up to 50 million metric tons of e-waste annually. That amount is worth approximately $62.5 billion, which is more than most other countries' GDP. Meanwhile, Electronic Recyclers International (ERI) predicts the amount of e-waste will double by 2030.

  • E-waste contains many toxins that are harmful to humans

The components of many electronics contain different substances that are toxic to humans, like mercury and lead. In addition, improper recycling and disposal release them into the environment, where prolonged exposure may cause permanent damage to the brain, heart, liver, and other systems in the body.

  • Less than 20% of the total global e-waste undergoes proper recycling

ERI reports that, globally, properly recycled e-waste in 2019 was only 17.4%. Of all the countries, the US only comes in third when it comes to recycling e-waste (9.4% of total waste)—behind Europe (43%) and Asia (11%).

  • Small electronics make up 38% of e-waste

The United Nations Institute for Training and Research has six classifications of e-waste. These are:

  • temperature exchange equipment (refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners);
  • screens, monitors, and equipment containing screens (televisions, monitors, and laptops);
  • lamps (fluorescent and LED lamps);
  • large equipment (washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers);
  • small equipment (microwaves, vacuum cleaners, and toasters); and
  • small IT and telecommunication equipment (mobile phones, gaming consoles, and printers).

Among these categories, small equipment makes up 38% of the total e-waste. Attics, basements, and garages worldwide house an estimated 100 million electronic pieces.

  • Recycling 1 million cell phones can produce a significant amount of silver, copper, gold, and palladium

Many electronics have a small amount of precious metals in them. For example, if you recycle a million phones, you can get 772 lbs of silver, 35,000 lbs of copper, 75 lbs of gold, and 33 lbs of palladium. The value of these raw materials is approximately $57 billion.

4 Effects of E-Waste on the Environment

E-waste poses negative impacts on various aspects of sustainability.

1. Air

Recycling and disposing of e-waste materials involve exposing them to heat and releasing harmful fumes and particles. Heating these components is a way to extract precious metals from them, but the emitted particles can travel far through the air. Breathing in these particles and fumes can lead to cancer and chronic diseases in humans and animals.

2. Soil

Improperly or illegally dumped e-waste can seep into the soil or groundwater and cause contamination. The contaminants can transfer to the crops, which, when ingested, can cause health problems.

3. Water

Some of the most harmful materials in electronics are mercury, lead, and barium. When they seep into groundwater, they can travel to larger bodies of water like lakes and rivers. The toxins can kill fish and other organisms, disrupting the ecosystems. They can also cause the water to be unsafe for drinking.

4. Humans

Again, several materials in electronics can harm the human body. Aside from cancer and chronic diseases, exposure to toxins can cause congenital disabilities and damage the nervous system.

2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development

In 2015, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs revealed its 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development. The agenda had a 17-point goal the organization would try to meet in the next 15 years. Goal 12 tackles sustainable consumption and production patterns.

By 2030, the campaign would have achieved sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources. The indicators for success are overall material footprint, material footprint per capita, and material footprint per GDP.

The United Nations also wants to encourage companies to participate by adopting sustainable practices and showing how much positive impact they're making through their published reports.

Feel good about buying Apple products as they have already, for many years, been working on reducing waste. Products produced in recent years are already 100% recyclable. So by choosing refurbished Apple Mac computers, you are actively helping to extend the lifecycle of products until it is time to be recycled. And, this is also Apple’s way of making their clients feel good about recycling products and contributing something to greater good.

5 Ways to Solve the E-Waste Problem in Your Own Way

Everyone can contribute to solving the e-waste problem. Here are five ways you can do your part.

1. Bring your electronics to recycling firms

Several companies accept old electronics for recycling. Bringing your tech to these firms will ensure correct waste disposal. Recyclers can also extract parts to create new gadgets.

2. Donate old electronics

If you have old electronics that still work, you can consider donating them. Give them to people less fortunate in your neighborhood, pass them to friends or family, or hand them to non-profit organizations. In turn, these people can either use your old gadgets for their own needs or refurbish them.

3. Rethink when buying new devices

Whenever you get the urge to buy a new gadget, stop and think if you need it. If you still have electronic items that fulfill its intended functions, keeping them may be best. On the other hand, if you need to buy a new piece of equipment, look for one that can last for a long time and has multiple features and functions to avoid purchasing more devices than necessary.

4. Buy refurbished devices

Rather than buying entirely new gadgets, you can instead get a refurbished device from certified and trusted shops like Macs4u. Refurbishment gives new life to old electronics, extending their lifespan and avoiding the dumpsite where they can contribute to e-waste.

5. Purchase Energy Star appliances

Some appliances have the Energy Star sticker, indicating they consume less electricity and are environmentally friendly. Energy Star is a U.S. government project that aims to reduce greenhouse gasses and consumers' electric bills. If you need to purchase new appliances, look for ones that are Energy Star-certified.

Help Reduce E-Waste Today

Millions of discarded electronics turn into waste. If not recycled correctly, toxic substances can affect human lives and ecosystems worldwide.

Fortunately, you can contribute to reducing e-waste in several ways, including purchasing a used computer instead of a brand-new one. Macs4u can provide refurbished Apple productsto help you do your part in cutting down e-waste. Get in touch with Macs4u today!