E-waste is a massive problem both in the US and around the world. Every year, the United States disposes of 4million tons just in landfill, and this doesn’t include the amounts which are transferred abroad as a cheaper alternative by many companies looking to avoid the costs of disposal. In fact in India, they have had to ban the import of computers into the country because of the amount of black market traders looking to dispose electronic goods in landfill.
Let’s not forget that electrical goods have toxic parts which need to be disposed of carefully. For that reason you would think that E-waste recycling would be a more viable solution but it isn’t as prominent as it should be. A four step process for recycling e-waste could really make a big difference to the amounts dumped in landfill.
1) Before even thinking of disposing gadgets or electronic goods, the question should be asked: who could make more use out of this product? Providing countries and people with used working electronic goods and components, who couldn’t afford them otherwise should be at least the first port of call for any so-called e-waste and is an extremely straightforward solution.
2) If a component or electronic device is no long working and is broken, the next step should be to see whether the gadget or piece of tech can be repaired or refurbished. If it can be repaired at a low price near to what it would cost to put it in landfill, then why not just repair the device and continue to utilize it?
3) Salvaging components from electronic goods and devices can be the next option if the equipment or gadget cannot be reused or repaired. All phones, TVs and computers have valuable components which can be repurposed for other electronic devices.
4) Finally, if all else fails, there are many component parts in electronic devices which can actually be recycled themselves and can be utilized for other purposes.
These four solutions should play a big role in dealing with the e-waste issue which not only damages the environment but also sees companies exploiting developing countries to cut costs for disposal of such devices. In the long term, recycling e-waste makes sense on so many different levels. It can reduce costs in terms of disposal, it provides technology to people who would otherwise have no access it, and above all, it is far greener.
David Tully has written many articles on the environmental issues, including for Bright Green Talent, a resource for green jobs.