How to Dispose of E-waste in 2023
Electronic waste, or e-waste, is one of the fastest-growing waste streams globally, with an estimated 50 million metric tons produced annually. As we upgrade to the latest electronic devices, we often forget about the old gadgets gathering dust in our closets and drawers.
These discarded phones, Nintendos, TVs, and iPods are like ghosts haunting our homes, reminders of the incredibly rapid progress of the computer age. Blackberries, fresh and fancy fifteen years ago, are now forgotten relics of the past. Who doesn’t remember when the iPhone 5s was the latest and greatest? Now you can buy an iPhone 14.
Unlike ghosts, these broken and essentially useless devices threaten the environment and our health. Let’s explore how to deal with e-waste in the best way possible.
How is E-waste Dealt With?
Phones and computers have become essential to almost everything we do. Even toilets are becoming smart. This incredible range of capabilities is partly because of the large range of heavy metals used in the batteries and motherboard. Lead, mercury, cadmium, and flame retardants can leach into the soil and groundwater if not managed properly.
Here are some of the ways e-waste is dealt with:
- Landfills: Many countries dispose of e-waste in landfills. However, this approach is not sustainable since the toxic chemicals can seep into the soil and contaminate groundwater.
- Incineration: Incineration is another option for disposing of e-waste. It involves burning the waste to reduce its volume and convert it into ash. However, this method releases toxic fumes into the air and can cause air pollution.
- Recycling: Recycling is the most sustainable method of e-waste disposal. It involves recovering materials from waste and reusing them to manufacture new products. Recycling reduces the waste that goes into landfills and incinerators.
Best Practices for Disposing of E-waste
Proper disposal of e-waste starts with consumers. Here are some best practices for disposing of old phones, computers, and smart vacuum robots:
- Backup and delete data: Before disposing of electronic devices, back up any essential data and delete it from the device. This prevents your personal information from falling into the wrong hands.
- Separate batteries: Most electronic devices contain batteries that can easily be removed and need to be processed in different facilities.
- Donate or sell: If your electronic device is still somewhat functional, consider donating or selling it instead of throwing it away. This reduces e-waste and gives someone else a chance to save money.
- Contact a waste management facility: Waste management services don’t just take your recycling and garbage like the curbside collection programs. They can help dispose of unlikely trash, too, like furniture, foliage, and electronics. If they don’t collect e-waste, they can often point you in the right direction.
- Participate in e-waste collection events: Many organizations and communities, like universities, organize e-waste collection events. Participating in these events ensures that your e-waste is disposed of safely and responsibly. You can even organize your own by obtaining a rollaway dumpster rental and managing publicity.
The Future of E-waste Disposal
As the amount of e-waste continues to pile up, new technologies and methods are emerging to improve e-waste disposal. Here are four trends to watch out for in the future of e-waste disposal:
- Circular economy: The circular economy is an economic model that aims to minimize waste by using resources efficiently. It involves designing products that can be easily disassembled and recycled. This reduces the amount of waste that goes into landfills and conserves natural resources.
- Robotics: Emerging technology companies can improve the efficiency and safety of e-waste recycling. Robots can disassemble electronic devices and sort materials quickly and accurately. This reduces the time and labor required for e-waste recycling and improves the quality of recycled materials, especially since many electronics require precise work at a tiny scale.
- Sustainable materials: As more companies embrace sustainability, they are exploring new materials that are easier to recycle and less harmful to the environment. For example, some companies are developing bioplastics made from renewable resources.
- Consumer education: Educating consumers about e-waste and its impact on the environment is crucial in reducing the amount of e-waste generated. As consumers become more aware of the consequences of their actions, they will make better decisions about what to buy and how to dispose of old technology.
While not owning the newest iPhone may be a personal point of concern, e-waste is a growing problem for all of us. There’s no denying that e-waste isn’t as easy to get rid of as your milk container. It requires you to put in a little work. Or it can be as easy as calling your local waste disposal company.
As we continue to get excited about new technologies, let’s also share the thrill of sustainable technologies. See if your supplier cares about sustainable practices and collects old items for recycling. Technology saves us so much time. It’s time we learned to invest a tiny fraction of that in properly disposing of the devices that gave it to us.