The increase in usage of technology has also increased the amount of e-waste that ends up in landfills. With each recent product purchase becoming obsolete mere months after it hits the shelves, resulting, in an electronic waste crisis, created by millions of used computers and mobile devices improperly disposed of into landfills.
According to the recent estimation of the 15.7 million computers that reached their ‘end of life’ in Australia in 2007-08, only 1.5 million were recycled – that’s less than 10% and the rest ending up in landfills to the detriment of our environment and our bodies. The cumulative volume of televisions and computers reaching the end of their useful life is expected to reach 181,000 tonnes or 44 million units by 2027-28
The vast majority of materials used in computers, cell phones, and smart devices can be recovered to make new products, particularly since most devices are retired due to psychological, not technological, obsolescence.
Australians buy more than 4 million computers and 3 million televisions annually. In 2010, over 71 million new laptops and desktops were purchased nationwide, contributing vast amounts of e-waste as older models were discarded– 423,000 tons. Only 40% of computers were actually recycled. This does not include monitors and other peripheral equipment, capable of introducing large quantities of contaminants into the environment as well as wasting precious resources. Just one clunky old monitor can house up to 7 pounds of lead. Mining for gold? A metric ton of circuit boards contains 40-800 times the gold and 30-40 times the copper mined from the same weight of ore. Recovering materials used in computers and other mobile devices is essential in conserving natural resources, reducing air and water pollution, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Cell phones of the 789 million mobile devices ready for recycling and estimation say only about 11% are actually turned in. Of those turned in, 38% were reused or refurbished, the remaining 62% recycled for material recovery. A valuable form of e-waste, cell phones and other smart devices contain an array of precious metals: copper, aluminium, iron, nickel, tin, as well as gold, palladium, and silver. 80% of mobile components can be recycled, including batteries, headsets, cases, cables and chargers. For every million cell phones recycled, 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered. Unfortunately, in addition to these precious materials, mobile devices can contain hazardous materials such as mercury, lead, and cadmium as well which makes improper disposal not only wasteful but destructive.
Due to lack of awareness many consumers are simply unaware of toll e-waste has on the environment, or that there is any use left for devices deemed obsolete by themselves as individuals. From poorer countries who rely on our castoffs in hopes of owning cell phones, mobile devices, and computers, to domestic charities who can make great use of these devices, simply tossing your old computer or phone into the local landfill or leaving items to rot in a drawer or closet isn’t doing the environment, or anyone else, any favours.
Another major reason why consumers aren’t recycling is that consumers have the tendency to avoid any course of action that involves them going out of their way to determine and carry out proper recycling procedures.
Delete – then dispose of. Completely erase all data and personal information to prevent its misuse. Use manufacturer and online resources for properly erasing data and be certain to perform a hard factory reset prior to recycling. Remove your SIM card or other storage chips/devices, and cancel mobile service if you have not done so already. Don’t forget to recycle your batteries and accessories as well.
Make sure they’re certifiable. Make certain any recycler you send a used computer or mobile devices to is a certified recycler. Without proper recycling, your e-waste may be improperly dumped in a landfill or shipped to a third world nation.
Take advantage of manufacturer recycling programs such as those by Dell, Sony when you purchase a new product. Recycling for these programs is typically low to no cost and performed to high standards for brand protection.
Prevent e-waste woes by counting on the professionals for help managing the safe recycling electronic waste.
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