Unrecycled Gadgets Are Big Environmental Concern
In the wake of National Recycling Week, it’s important to look at ways in which we can be kinder to the planet. Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, or WEEE, needs to be recycled in a sustainable way to reduce its impact on the environment. According to research from the WEEE Forum, there is plenty of work to do when it comes to making sure everything that is no longer used is recycled.
Recycling WEEE is crucial as the precious metals used in their creation can be the difference between mining for more raw materials and simply finding new life for existing materials. Without recycling gadgets, the demand for raw materials increases, which is an issue because it’s often linked with conflict, child labour or polluting practices.
The research found that almost 40% of mobiles and games consoles are not in use, but still in working condition, compared to just 19% of ones that are broken. Consumers are hoarding electric items, even when they’re no longer useful instead of getting them properly recycled.
Kitchen gadgets, like toasters and electric whisks, take up the smallest percentages, while MP3 players and Sat Navs take up a considerable portion more. If you think about all the headphones, DVD players, remote controls and tablets that may be lying around in drawers around your home, it’s easy to see how this all adds up. According to the findings, hoarding habits in Europe are most likely similar to other developed countries. You can afford to have additional appliances, which means you’re more likely to hoard an increased number of them.
The reasons reported for hoarding ranged from potentially using the item again in future (46%) to selling it (15%), the item having sentimental value (13%), and not knowing how to properly dispose of it (7%). Even 1% of participants declared that there was no incentive to recycle, which is a problem in and of itself. While recycling has grown in the past decades, e-waste has grown even faster.
Individuals aren’t totally to blame, as corporations tend to limit the life of their products and governments don’t often deploy a gadget recycling scheme. Global electronic consumption has risen by 4% a year as well, creating a growing problem for e-waste and its management, as things are likely to get worse.
It’s important to stress individual action though, as hoarding is happening on such a large scale that it’s detrimental to the environment. There are around 16 billion mobile phones in use around the world and 5.3 billion of these will become e-waste this year. Piled flat on top of each other, they will reach an eighth of the way to the moon. Only a small fraction of these will be properly recycled.
Promoting responsibility for e-waste is crucial for us to avoid putting so much strain on the world’s finite resources. Eventually, a circular economy needs to be created for electronic equipment in order to address the growing issue of WEEE. Recapturing important materials from these unused gadgets can help create new devices, whether for your next mobile phone or for renewable energy generation.