10 Things you might not know about E-waste

Electronic waste – a modern issue that requires modern solutions.  The term E-waste is relatively simple, but the problems behind it are complex.  A lot of people ask themselves – what should I do with my old electronics? The materials found in Mobile phones, Laptops, and other electronics are extremely hazardous, which means simply putting them into landfills is not good enough.

To help with understanding these issues, let’s take a look at some facts surrounding E-waste, and the issues that someone disposing of these types of items might face, as well as highlighting why you should be trying to recycle your old electronics.

1. Electronic waste is the fasting growing waste stream in the world

This should come as no surprise, as the use of electronics such as phones, laptops, and PCs has become essential for practically any business.  20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed of worldwide every year. That’s like throwing away 800 laptops every second. The rate in which we replace our old electronics is also going up –  how many people do you know that have a perfectly good and working smartphone, only to replace it a year later with the latest model, for not much reason other than to own the shiniest newest thing.

2. In the USA, only 12.5% of e-waste is currently being recycled, NZ is even worse.

A recent report conducted in Whangarei found that as much as 98% of New Zealand’s household electronics end up in a landfill. New Zealand itself produces an estimated 98,000 tonnes of e-waste each year, and this is growing three times faster than any other type of waste stream.

3. E-waste is responsible for around 70% of all toxic waste.

This is a major issue, as currently there is far too much waste being produced in comparison to the methods of dealing with it. E-waste is home to some nasty heavy metals that are especially toxic, such as Mercury, Lead, Cadmium, and Arsenic. These items going into landfill, or being burnt in an incinerator, is a nightmare of environmental issues. Not only is it a danger for it to be processed in a facility unequipped to do so, but the effects it can have on our waterways and surrounding plant life is catastrophic.

4. It’s not all bad though, as E-waste also contains a lot of Gold and precious metals.

Despite all the bad things inside your old electronics, there’s still a lot of good that can be done with them. Old computers, laptops, and mobile phones all contain high amounts of precious metals like Gold and Silver, which makes throwing these types of items away into a landfill even more ridiculous.  E-waste has a high recoverable value, so items taken to the correct facilities can be processed and recycled properly, this diverts a huge amount of dangerous waste from landfill.

5. As much as 7% of the world’s gold may currently be contained in E-waste.

Not only are old electronics packed with gold, but there is about 100 times more gold in a ton of e-waste than in a ton of gold ore.

6. Recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3657 homes in a year.

The benefits of correctly processing e-waste are huge. Another example is that for every 1 million cell phones that are recycled, 16,000kgs of copper, 327kgs of silver, 34kgs of gold, and 15kgs of palladium can be recovered.

7. Most electronic waste is just left lying around.

Around 75% of actual E-waste is being kept right at your home, most commonly in the form of old phones and dead devices. Why is this?  Most likely because people just aren’t sure what to do with it.  But also, these are items that people spent a lot of money on when they first got them, so it can be hard to let them go or dispose of them.

8. There are more active cell phones then there are people on the planet.

There are more mobile phones in existence then there are people alive. A 2016 study found that there are more than 7.2 active SIM cards, while at the time there were less than 7.2 billion people on earth.

9. The bulk of second-hand electronics are sent overseas to the developing world.

This is meant to give second and third lives to devices, but under the label of “reuse and repair”, a lot of illegally exported e-waste ends up in the mix. This creates dangerous and potentially hazardous working conditions for poor and often exploited individuals.  More responsibility needs to be in place, holding accountability to the countries exporting these dangerous commodities, and putting more precedent on developing the facilities to process e-waste efficiently.

10. E-waste is worth more than the GDP of over 100 countries.

The UN University and International Telecommunication Union have estimated that the raw materials in e-waste are worth $62.5 billion annually. That’s more than the GDP of 123 countries.  This should really emphasize the importance of the correct processing of e-waste.  Countless jobs can be created, and our environment desperately needs deeper consideration when it comes to discarding used electronics.

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