E-waste – Cut it Out!
“E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in developed as well as in developing countries, generating up to 50 million tons annually with only a 10% recycling rate.” United Nations Environment Program
E-waste is the waste created when electronics and electronic appliances remain unused or are thrown away. It covers a vast range of items including televisions, music players, personal computers, chargers, batteries, laptops, cameras, gaming consoles, CD players, lamps and so on.
When it comes to e-waste, it can be challenging to see the impact of your actions as they are not immediate or always visible. However, know that every action counts and one person can make a difference.
Some tips to cut down on e-waste:
Lifespan: Use all products for their maximum lifespan; this follows a simple but powerful principle of prevention is better than cure.
Maintenance and care: Take care of your electronics, use them gently, get hardy covers, do not feel the need to replace as frequently. It is better to replace parts, rather than the whole product itself.
Responsible disposal: Never ever throw away e-waste in a dustbin along with regular trash. Not only is this extremely dangerous for those dealing with your trash, it is highly irresponsible as well. E-waste should be disposed of at collection centers or exchanged at stores. Even a small amount contains precious metal and highly hazardous substances.
Be wary of excessive consumerism: Break away from the mass mentality of buying electronics on whim and fancy; this is a highly toxic way of life. We must aim at reducing our overall consumption altogether – move from wants-based consumption to a needs-based way of life. So, the next time you feel the urge to buy a newly released phone simply because it has cool features, think of the impact this has on the environment.
Research: Be thorough with your research before you purchase the product. This way you ensure your own satisfaction for a longer period and are not tempted to exchange it prematurely. Be aware of your needs and buy an electronic device with specifications most compatible to these needs.
Type of technology: As you know, technology changes and upgrades happen overnight. It is wiser and sustainable to go for products that can stay abreast with the changing times, i.e., be upgraded or have parts replaced, as opposed to electronics with embedded technology.
Be a conscious consumer: While doing your research, prioritize products that use less toxic materials, and rely more on recycled content. Always patronize companies who support this ethic of recycle and reuse, and take their environmental responsibility of dealing with e-waste seriously.
Recycle, reduce, reuse: Let this be a guiding principle for your use of electronic goods. If you cannot repair your phone/laptop or feel that you need a replacement, sell or donate the item to a secondhand consumer who needs one. Choose to purchase secondhand or refurbished electronics; this goes a long way. It is also important to do this without delay and not hoard the product, because this inevitably diminishes its market value and exchange rate.
Rechargeable batteries: Try and use, or switch to, rechargeable batteries as far as possible.
In an ideal world, companies would care about the afterlife of their products, consumers would know how to fix their electronics, and electronics would come with basic maintenance and a simple fix-it-yourself guide. However, if we had it this way, big corporations would cease to make profits and so we remain dis-empowered consumers. There should also be regulations on the pace at which new electronic products are released into the market.
On that note, there are responsible and conscious companies, who take e-waste seriously. Find and support them.