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Not so fun fact: As we intellectually evolve, so does our trash!
E-waste has been asking for our attention in an increasing manner, taking the prize for being one of the fastest-growing (at a quite alarming rate) waste streams on the planet. Yes, it beat plastic. By e-waste, we’re referring to electronic products that are unwanted, not working, and outdated, whereas by waste streams we allude to the complete flow of waste from its domestic or industrial source through to recovery, recycling, or final disposal.
The more our technology advances, the more accessible worldwide electronics become, translating into an increasing production that reaches around 50 million tons each year. It seems the odds aren’t in our favor though, since we only recycle 10% of it. What of the other 90%? It ends up getting landfilled, incinerated, or illegally traded.
“Refuse what you do not need; reduce what you do need; reuse what you consume; recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse; and rot (compost) the rest.” - Bea Johson
When we do not apply these wise words we become bystanders and end up contributing to the harm of our precious environment. E-waste contains a vast list of chemicals that are as bad as they sound (mercury, lead, retardants, etc.). Neglecting a good disposal practice leads to these chemicals being released into our soil, air, and water, damaging everything in its way, including us!
So what can we do?
It’s simple! We can start with some baby steps, by taking good care of our electronics, along with getting used to selling or donating them. If they’re working, why trash them? There’s always someone in need, especially stores that dismantle tech and give it another purpose in life. Remember, before buying a new one, consider how can you repurpose your old one!
Very often it's cheaper to buy something new, than to fix something old. This results in an increase in mining and toxicity leaking into every single landfill that exists. By becoming more mindful about where our e-waste ends up, we can significantly limit our footprint and with it reduce the impact it has on the environment. I know it’s easier said than done, but we’re pretty much starting our predictable walk on thin ice here (north pole pun intended).
In this case, recycling isn’t exactly the answer. The heart of the issue lies in overconsumption, meaning that to have a truly sustainable impact on this issue, we must produce less to pollute less - the tricky part is to find the right balance where we’re comfortable sacrificing a small portion of our quality of life. By increasing our effort to extend the lives of our gadgets, we’re choosing the most practical and intelligent path of tackling e-waste.
Technology got us so far but planned obsolescence had to stain it. The question is, are you ready to make a change?
Did we peak your interest? If so, here's a very comprehensive guide for further reading!