Electronic Waste Recycling: Environmental and Economic Effect
E-waste or electronic waste is a discarded product that still works, has a battery or something that you can plug into an electrical outlet.
Smartphones, radios, laptops, computer parts, electric kettles, televisions, and washing machines are just a few examples of electronic waste.
We expect the latest and greatest in electronic technology, but what about the thousands of obsolete gadgets that are released each year?
The alarming rate of e-waste generation
People have many outdated and old electronics in their homes.
On average, there are approximately 80 electronic products per household.
In the UK, people spend around £ 800 every year on new models and devices.
The same households dispose of between 44 and 55 pounds of electronic waste per year.
These discarded items end up in the landfill or neglected area, that is, the garage or attic.
University of the United Nations reported that the amount of electronic waste has increased by about 8% in just two years, growth was considered faster in any garbage and approximately twice the amount of waste plastic to.
In the study, it was found that there were 43 million tons of e-waste items sent to landfills in the years 2014 to 2016, equivalent to about 4,500 Eiffel Towers or 9 Pyramids of Giza in terms of weight.
On those lines, only about 8.9 metric tons of the waste were collected and recycled, representing approximately 20% of the total volume.
The e-waste trend only increases from there, as it is made up of very little recycling.
Researchers predict that the amount of e-waste will increase to 52.2 million tons by 2021.
Too much digital garbage and not enough recycling is bad for Mother Earth.
A large percentage of precious metals, including platinum, gold, and silver, are used to make smartphones, motherboards, chips, and the like.
More than that, a large part of these are still recoverable – there is around £ 40 trillion worth of materials that can be recovered each year.
Not all the innards of a smartphone are good for the environment.
Most of the time, they contain dangerous and harmful compounds, such as mercury, cadmium , arsenic, and lead.
These items can still be reused or even recycled for a good thing, but when thrown into landfills they pose a major health hazard (absorbing the city’s water supply) and environmental damage.
Recycling e-waste is the name of the game.
You can limit air and water pollution and, at the same time, make the world a better place to live.
E-waste recycling on a global scale
E-waste is truly a global pandemic that requires serious attention.
It is not only prevalent in Asian but also in all other parts of the world.
All data and statistics require global efforts for e-waste recycling.
Why should we recycle our old cell phones?
Take a look at the following figures:
- A recycled phone will save enough energy to run a laptop for 40 hours.
- In the United States, approximately 130 million smartphones are thrown away each year.
- If 100% of these were recycled, the amount of energy we save can power a small town for a year.
- One million recycled phones can return 35,000 pounds of copper, 33 pounds of palladium, 772 pounds of silver, and 75 pounds of gold.
- One million phones can save enough energy for 150 homes in a year if they are recycled.
These are just some of the benefits we can get from being mindful of how we dispose of our e-waste products.
The recycling responsible may seem tedious, but it can save our environment for future generation.
Recycle or reuse?
The average household buys a new cell phone every 1 to 2 years. Once they do, the older phone collects dust or gets thrown in the trash.
Work devices can be donated to a recycling program, a charity, or a goodwill platform to help those less fortunate.
Some recycling initiatives work as a way to raise money for a school, hospital, or community effort.
IPhones can be shipped directly to Apple through the Renew program.
The figures for recovered material are impressive: In 2015, the global tech giant has collected more than 2,000 pounds of gold, 6,000 pounds of silver and more than 2.5 million pounds of copper material from electronic waste.
There are tech recyclers online, some brick-and-mortar stores near your location that would pay a decent price for your phone.
So there really is no excuse not to recycle your old gadgets.
What happens to your old phone?
The innards and electronic components of a mobile phone – that is, batteries, metal, and plastics – are so useful that they can be broken down or reused to make a whole new product.
Metals can be shipped for reuse in industries such as automotive, electronics, or jewelry.
Plastics can be divided into their respective groups and can be made into auto parts, plastic containers or garden furniture, among others.
Smartphone batteries can be repaired or broken down to re-manufacture new batteries.
Recycling is simply remembering not to throw old phones in the garbage can.
When you’re waiting in line for your new iPhone, laptop, or smart device, remember that you can give your gadgets a second chance at life by donating or recycling them, or selling them to get some of your money back.
Its for a good cause!
An electronic waste, what is it?
By definition, waste is what no longer has value, or at least more functional value because it maintains the residual value of the materials that compose it.
In terms of electronic waste, we are talking about WEEE, called D3E, electrical and electronic waste.
The term refers to all equipment that runs on electricity. There are several categories: large and small household appliances, computer and telecommunications equipment, electrical and electronic tools.
WHAT END OF LIFE FOR YOUR APPLIANCES?
After years of faithful service, that’s it, it’s the end. It doesn’t work anymore, it shows you error codes all the time, well, in short, your relationship is no longer a lazy river.
But that raises a question: what to do with my machine? To throw it away? Recycle it? And what environmental impact do these steps have? We will try to answer it.
Where is the trash?
Household appliances, such as electronic objects, fall into the category of D3E or WEEE (for waste electrical and electronic equipment). And since November 2006, it is forbidden to throw them away.
No garbage? So how are we doing? You must go through a specialized collection point that takes the waste to a dedicated treatment site. The reason ? D3E is a particularly complex waste that contains, among other things, plastic elements, heavy metals and polluting gases. A cocktail of happiness that would be criminal to throw.
Let’s take an example with a product found in 97% of homes: the refrigerator. In a refrigerator, there is in particular gas whose power on global warming is 1000 times greater than CO2. In short, if you do the math, your refrigerator has 1.24 tons of CO2 equivalent which corresponds to the pollution produced by a car during a year *.
Just that These polluting gases need to be treated in a very specific way to avoid any contamination, we will see in the part below! So what we keep here is that the D3E, we don’t throw them anywhere.
A refrigerator contains 1.24 tons of CO2 equivalents, which corresponds to the pollution generated by a car during one year.
The world generated in 2018 more than 50 million tons of electronic waste; the equivalent of throwing away 125,000 jumbo jets or 4,500 Eiffel Towers and enough to completely cover the island of Manhattan with electronic waste.
Only a small portion of the remains of computers, appliances, telephones, batteries are recycled correctly, even though they have a high economic value and the potential to create jobs. Without proper management, they harm the environment and human health.
First step on the long recycling, collection journey!
In 2017, this organization managed to collect 533,640 tons of D3E, a collection rate of 50%. A much better score than in 2006, which was 35%.
We progress! However, although the body appears to be improving its operations and collecting more and more waste, our per capita waste production also continues to increase.
The report is still bitter.
Finally, in the large cold appliances (GEM F) of which our beloved refrigerator is a part, the collection rate is 41%.
This means that in 2017, 1 million of these devices, or 54 thousand tons, are not collected. In the cold shutdown GEM (GEM HF): washing machine, dishwasher, dryer, the collection rate is 48%. Or 2.4 million units, or 130 thousand tons that are not collected by the relevant treatment agency in 2017.
These “lost” wastes will end up in the best landfill without treatment or the worst pollutant in nature.
2nd stage, recycling and collection
Now that our device has arrived safely. It can be recovered: in the form of new raw materials (ie recycled) or in other forms, such as energy production.
The recycling and recovery rate is encouraging.
Of the 533,640 tons of D3E collected nationally by ecosystems in 2017, 81% was valued in the form of new raw materials and 8% was recovered in other forms (energy, landfills, etc.). Not bad, right?
SO THIS RECYCLING, OUR MIRACLE SOLUTION?
Especially since not everything is really recyclable. We were talking about your refrigerator, all dressed in plastic. In France, only 6% of plastic is recycled in a closed circuit per year.
The other percentages correspond to: an uncontrolled dispersion in the environment (between 35-50%), an underground burial (20-40%), an incineration (9-14%), which allows to value the energy released but which is responsible of carbon dioxide emissions (greenhouse effect), or finally losses during the recycling process.
Worse still for your appliance, the plastic is “brominated” to prevent a fire. This procedure, useful for our safety, makes the plastic not recyclable.
Recycling is not a providential remedy. Its media success is mainly due to the fact that it represents a way to create economic value from a used product.
It is an automatic timer, but it is not a renewal of our business model. By taking responsibility for recycling, we must not renounce responsibility for our consumption.
Small quantities countries have a uniform way of measuring this waste that comes from homes, companies and governments, and that can contain precious metals such as gold, copper and nickel, as well as rare materials of strategic value such as indium and palladium.
To get an idea, up to 60 elements from the periodic table can be found on a smartphone. Many of these metals can be recovered, recycled and used as secondary raw materials for new products.