Recycling is a good practice to reduce waste in the world. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to electronics! While it isn’t bad to recycle your computer or smartphone, making that a panacea for the e-waste crisis we currently have certainly is.
People often misunderstood ‘recycling’ when it comes to electronics. The reality is that, as a solution, recycling barely scratches the surface as a solution to the growing e-waste crisis.
According to a UN report, the United States of America produces about 14% of the world’s electronic waste. Sadly, almost 45 million tons of electronics were tossed out in 2016 worldwide. Out of that staggering amount of electronic waste, only 20% has been recycled in some shape or form, and the remaining 80% ends up in a landfill making more damage to the environment.
What the majority of users don’t realize is that many ‘recyclers’ actually just ship most of the e-waste abroad where instead of being recycled, usable parts are repurposed and minerals are extracted. In addition, the methods used are almost always improper and unusable equipment is dumped in the ground improperly. The current rate of responsible e-waste recycling is at an abysmal 15.5% worldwide.
E-waste continues to grow at a rate of 4% each year and it’s impossible to cope with. While there is an increased focus on recycling today compared to the past, the efforts to sustain reclaimed used devices can’t keep up with the massive consumption of new devices.
This is caused by the short life cycles of new devices and manufacturers rushing out new models to eager consumers. On average, a smartphone is used for just two years before it gets replaced.
As consumers, we must remember that recycling is first and foremost a removal from circulation and an implicit incentive to produce and buy new. According to Apple, 77% of the carbon footprint of their electronics come from their manufacture and only 17% comes from its actual use. The environmental impact of replacing a device, even after recycled, remains significant.
Recycling is useful, but there is an urgent need to recognize the limits of electronics recycling and to look hard at the root of our growing e-waste problem.
Only the extension of the life of the devices currently in circulation through maintenance, remanufacturing, and reuse in one form or another, can have a meaningful effect on our environment. We must not rely on recycling. To have a sustainable impact on the e-waste crisis, we must produce less to pollute less, and also, to find a way to do that without sacrificing our current quality of life.
We at Rentwise, are constantly extending the lives of devices through remanufacturing, giving them second and third lives and keeping them out of landfills as it is the most practical and intelligent approach. We encourage business owners and organizations to join us in our Green IT venture to preserve mother earth.