We empty the trash on our laptops and devices with swipes, taps, and clicks. Not nearly as effortless? Responsibly disposing of our old electronics when we upgrade to more shiny, speedy models. And that’s a problem since, even though we probably don’t think a lot about the environmental impact of our phones and tablets, there's no escape key for the massive amounts of waste generated by gifting us our gadgets.
So, if you’re mulling eco-friendly changes at home or in the office, why not begin by planning to properly dispose of your retired devices? There’s even a day on the calendar to do just that — October 14, otherwise known as E-Waste Day, which is intended to remind us that responsibly getting rid of our electronics is vital to a sustainable, tech-savvy world.
What is e-waste?
Electronic waste refers to all our electrical and electronic devices, whether the phone or tablet in your hand or the appliances in your living room and kitchen. We understand the temptation to swap out aging tech for sleek upgrades whenever there’s a new product rollout. But this only adds to the increasingly insurmountable surge in discarded electronics. Fortunately, there are ways to stay technologically up-to-speed while mitigating the damage to the planet.
Why reduce e-waste?
In 2019, the world generated approximately 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste, equivalent to the weight of 350 cruise ships. Improper and illegally dumped electronic waste results in pollution and potential contamination of the surrounding environment. Remember, most electronics require materials like lead, mercury, and flame retardants to work, so when they aren’t responsibly trashed, these materials seep into soil and water, leading to pollution and potential health hazards.
What’s interesting is that electronics contain valuable minerals like gold, silver, and rare earth metals — the amount of gold in one ton of e-waste is 100 times higher than in one ton of mined gold ore! Mining these resources can be extremely energy-intensive, which also impacts the environment. Recycling and reusing electronics can reduce the demand for raw materials and alleviate the strain on natural ecosystems.
The manufacture of electronic devices also consumes tremendous amounts of energy while releasing toxic chemicals and carbon emissions. When we extend the lifespan of our gadgets through proper care and recycling, we scale back the need for constant production, leading to better savings and a more circular economy.
How can you reduce e-waste?
Focused on reducing your environmental footprint this E-Waste Day? Whether you’re at home or in the office, read on for effective, convenient ways you can do just that:
Give older devices a second life
Before tossing out your gadgets, learn if they can still be useful elsewhere. Donate functional electronics to schools, charities, or local organizations. Your old tablet or computer can make a big difference for students and communities, so always choose to donate before trashing functional devices. Call up charities or schools, or if you’d rather make a little money, post on an online marketplace or have a garage sale.
When devices have reached the end of their electronic journey, recycling is the answer — not the dumpster. Seek out certified e-waste recycling facilities that follow environmentally sound practices. Many manufacturers and local communities offer convenient drop-off points. By responsible recycling, you’ll be able to divert appliances from winding up in landfills while allowing materials like gold and silver to be repurposed.
Opt for trade-in programs
Upgrading your tech? Many companies, including Apple, offer trade-in programs that provide discounts on new purchases in exchange for your old devices. This gives your gadget a new purpose while also reducing the environmental footprint associated with manufacturing new electronics. However, if your device is still in good condition, think about if you really need to replace it. This brings us to mindful purchasing.
Practice mindful purchasing
Before buying a new gadget, weigh the pros and cons. Is your current device still in solid working condition? Resist the urge to upgrade your phone or tablet whenever a new edition is unveiled. However, when you do, consider the longevity and repairability of the item. Opt for devices with modular designs and accessible parts. Also, when making a purchase, consider refurbished or pre-owned electronics. These devices have undergone thorough testing, repairs, and quality checks, ensuring they meet or exceed the performance of brand-new counterparts. This aligns nicely with creating a circular economy.
Support a circular economy
Explore businesses prioritizing a circular economy model, where products are designed for longevity, easy repair, and eventual recycling. Support initiatives and campaigns that advocate for the Right to Repair movement, which calls for the right of consumers to repair their own devices or have them repaired by third-party technicians. And as mentioned already, choose pre-owned or refurbished before buying a new device. This saves you money while helping to limit the production of unnecessary goods. You’re contributing to a more sustainable approach to tech consumption by supporting such initiatives.
Remember to erase your data securely
Be careful when donating or selling your devices! Before parting ways with your electronic devices, ensure all personal data is securely erased. Use reputable data-wiping software or consult a professional service to safeguard your privacy.
Implement green office solutions
Are you a manager or business owner? Institute green practices in your workplace! There are many ways to do this. First, establish designated e-waste collection points within the workplace, allowing employees to dispose of retired electronics responsibly. You can also educate staff on the importance and positive environmental impact of e-waste management. Take it further by implementing an e-waste recycling program in partnership with certified recycling facilities, guaranteeing all disposed electronics are handled eco-consciously.
When you inspire others to be responsible for proper e-waste disposal within the workplace, your office can set an example for other businesses to follow in building a greener, more sustainable future.
Remember, by embracing these strategies, you're not only participating in E-Waste Day — you’re taking action as part of the sustainable tech movement. Let's power up for change!