We create too much e-waste and reuse way too little. An unintended consequence of our reliance on electronics is the rise of e-waste. Nowadays the electronics have become as disposable as plastic bags. The upgrade cycle plays a much bigger role in the tech industry than in any other realm of consumer goods.?People used to use mobile phones for several years, and nowadays the younger generation wants to upgrade every time big manufacturers such as Apple or Samsung release a new model. But next time we decide to replace our device with the latest model, we should remember that more than 20 million tons of?e-waste?are produced every year.
The growing amount of e-waste threatens both the environment and human health as e-waste contains some of the most harmful toxins to humans. On top of that, improperly disposed e-waste results in life-endangering toxic chemicals released into the environment. According to research by the United Nations University, Asia produces just 3.7 kg of waste per person, compared to Europe’s 15.6 kg. After China shut its doors to the world’s e-waste, the developed world has chosen Southeast Asia as a dumping ground because only 17 % of its population live in areas with any sort of e-waste legislation. And to make matters worse, in the informal e-waste recycling economy, the population of these countries collect, sort, and recycle electronics with little regard for safety or the environment. Some common practices include burning electronics in the open in the land around them, or dunking e-waste in backyard acid baths to extract metals such as gold, silver, and titanium.?This type of informal recycling and disposal of e-waste? may involve significant risk to health of workers and communities in Southeast Asian countries?and great care must be taken to avoid unsafe exposure in recycling operations and leaking of materials such as heavy metals from landfills and incinerator ashes.
To tackle the e-waste problem, we need to stop throwing away the electronics that could be fixed with a cheap replaceable part. The harder part is to figure out the problem on our gadget, so very often we give up and decide to replace the gadget instead. Maybe instead of upgrading our device with a new model, we should upgrade our gadget repair manuals. Recycling should come only after we’ve gotten every bit of use out of a product.