In A recent article in PC Magazine, the author states that Big Tech needs to do more about the ever growing problem of e-waste. E-waste problems are not new, but the problems are growing faster than the solutions and it’s a problem that has no single solution.
It wasn’t that long ago that it was common to have only one computer per household, if we were lucky. And maybe the adults in the house had a cell phone. Now, everyone has a cell phone. The ipods we used to covet are in the back of a drawer filled with chargers. Now we have tablets, smart speakers, smart washing machines, smart refrigerators. Many people have wearables, 2 monitors on our desks, and our own laptops. Electronics are embedded in things more than ever before and they are getting smaller, cheaper, and easier to get.
The Environmental Problems of E-waste
According the PC Mag article, e-waste is one of the largest environmental problems in the world and it is accelerating climate change. Evolving technology exacerbates the problem, but the author suggests it can also be part of the solution.
“The latest report from The Global E-waste Statistics Partnership calculates that in 2019 alone, the world produced 53.6 megatons of e-waste, and less than 18% of that was documented and recycled. The rate of production of electronics has outstripped the speed at which recycling efforts have grown, making for an ever-growing problem. “
Around the globe, people are coming up with solutions. A professor at the University of New South Wales, Australia is working on micro e-waste processing centers. Two men in Southeast Asia have developed a home solar powered systems made from discarded laptop batteries and monitors and televisions. One small company in Nepal buys second hand phones and restores them for re-use.
Repair and resale of devices in the US is a regulated industry however, which often leads to new purchases when a device fails. It’s sometimes difficult to find authorized repair facilities and repairs can void the product warranties. Additionally, the price of new devices and the speed at which technology evolves makes it more attractive to discard old cell phones and computers, rather than repair them.
Re-use has an impact on the digital divide (the inequality of affordable devices for lower income families and individuals worldwide). It also prolongs the inevitable. At some point, that device will be at the end of it’s life.
Recycling e-waste separating the plastics, from the metals and glass. Processing that material to be used in new production, saves the landfills, and our natural resources.