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What is Ewaste?
“Ewaste” refers to electronics and electronic devices that have been declared “useless” or have reached the end of their “useful life” (even if they still work) and have been inappropriately disposed of. These could be repurposed and reused, like say recycling computers, laptops, and other technology.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics:
“Waste electrical and electronic equipment that is dependent on electric currents or electromagnetic fields in order to function (including all components, subassemblies and consumables which are part of the original equipment at the time of discarding)”.
They are sometimes given to charities and properly recycled, but the most majority of ewaste wind up in landfills and illegally disposed of. Trying to recycle ewaste is not new; it dates back to the 1970s. Many things have changed since then, including the rate at which ewaste has accumulated.
Computers, laptops, and smartphones are wonderful examples of how technology advancements have made the most recent iteration more important than prior iterations. While Apple releases new iPhones at ever shorter intervals, many of its users toss their old ones into the garbage without giving it any thought, preferring a new one to a quick fix.
When electronics were built to last, there was less care about how they were disposed. Technology, innovation, and production have advanced in recent years resulting in release dates that are closer together than ever before and shorter life cycles for the latest and best.
To reduce operational costs, several recycling centres export their ewaste to impoverished countries. While countries like China, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Ghana receive tonnes of ewaste each year and process it, they do so with the world’s poorest workforce and without safety laws. Because profit is the goal, workers who work with ewaste on a regular basis are not protected. The ethical difficulties surrounding the acquisition, recycling, and reuse of ewaste and its hazardous components have recently been brought to the attention of manufacturers, with the major point being that child labour is used in all cases.
As ewaste is torn down, ripped apart, and melted, the air quality deteriorates. These processes emit dust particles and chemicals, which pollute the air. Burning ewaste releases small particles that can go much further than you might imagine, increasing the risk of chronic diseases, illnesses, and other health problems in humans, animals, and the environment.
If dumped in landfills the particles and chemicals from ewaste eventually pool and leak into groundwater channels , causing toxification and acidification in any nearby bodies of water and local resources. Even if they are far from the original source, marine and freshwater creatures perish, affecting biodiversity and ecosystems.
While crucial records and serial numbers can be irrecoverable, hard discs and memory sticks from ewaste that a company may carelessly discard pose a concealed threat. They may find themselves in a difficult situation if the security of their clients’ and employees’ data is exploited and misused or stolen.
E-waste is a treasure trove of valuable metals and minerals that may be collected and reused. Because it is the world’s fastest growing waste stream, it may also be part of a solution that provides economies around the world with unprecedented benefits and opportunities.
The importance of recycling must be emphasised on a regular basis just as the attractiveness of buying a brand new product must be emphasised.
Before you buy an electronic item, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it truly necessary?
- Is it a requirement or a desire?
- Is it going to be useful in your personal or professional life?
If you answer no to any of these questions, you should reconsider your purchase and put it off for the time being.
It’s not only about avoiding wasteful purchases when it comes to doing your part; it might also mean donating your potential ewaste. Giving them to a charity benefits the community by giving others with less purchasing power an opportunity they would not otherwise have had. You can also sell them on the internet through online marketplaces.
Some recycling facilities specialise in properly and ethically treating ewaste. They are able to extract what is useful and shred the rest with an electronic shredder; the resulting dust is caught, preventing pollution in the air. Depending on the types of ewaste processed, several piles are formed.
These methods prevent additional ewaste from being disposed of in landfills for the end-users.
It is not only customers that have their part to play. Manufacturers, producers, and the government, have a role to play as well.
Combining the efforts of global players could result in a more sustainable sector that produces less ewaste and repurposes devices and their components in creative ways. Many large brands have set goals for ewaste recycling and reuse; the device-as-a-service business model is one approach for manufacturers to make the most of the materials they already have, with cheap initial fees for users and better product tracking and return policies.
It is the attitude of recycling, repairing, and refurbishing electronics that ensures that no components or materials are discarded wrongly. We can reduce our ewaste by informing others about the ramifications and encouraging them to take action.