E-waste is estimated to reach 120 million tons in 2050 from its current level of 50 million tons a year. Only 20% of the total global e-waste (50 million tons) is formally recycled. The remaining 80% is often incinerated or dumped in landfills.
Value of the e-waste amounts to $62.5 billion a year which is more than GDP’s of more than 120 countries in the world.
A circular economy is one in which resources are not extracted, used and wasted, but re-used in countless ways - creates decent, sustainable jobs and retains more value in the industry. The shift to reusing old devices copies this circular approach by eliminating waste and giving electronics a longer lifespan.
Extending the life of electronic products and re-using electrical components brings an even larger economic benefit, as working devices are certainly worth more than the materials they contain. Through a process of reusing them for work, education, creating jobs and limiting the environmental impact creates a sustainable product from our old electronics.
Unfortunately, a majority of our old electronics don’t get reused and end up landfills. What needs to happen is an endorsement from major tech and manufacturing companies to commit to reducing and reusing old electronics.
The zero waste policy and a circular economy has the potential to preserve economic growth in case of financial and other economic crisis in the future. In this situation “by reducing waste at every stage of the value chain, the circular economy plays an essential role in decoupling economic growth from natural resource use, thereby helping to preserve the environment.” This allows for greater efficiency with valuable resources, such as rare earth metals, for other uses. It is estimated that “Each percentage point reduction in resource use through increased efficiency would generate 12-23 billion euros, and between 100,000 and 200,000 jobs across Europe.”
The future of E-waste in the circular economy has the potential to increase jobs, efficiency and decrease the damaging environmental impact from rare earth metals. As we continue to reuse more of our old devices and using its different components with new products we will start to see the benefits of a circular economy. By having a reusable, efficient and sustainable economic model will ensure that everyone will reap its rewards.
1. Buy only what you need
Dealing with e-waste starts with the way we consume our resources. Start by asking yourself before each purchase: “Do I really need this?”. If the item is indeed something you cannot do without, the next question is if you can reduce on your carbon footprint, such as the following:
“Do I need a brand new one, or will a second-hand option fulfill my needs?” “How often will I use this? Could I borrow the item from my neighbor?”“Are there reusable options (such as rechargeable batteries) that I can consider?”
There are many ways we can save the Earth; all we need to do is to pause and consider our options to reduce our consumption and carbon footprint.
2. Repair instead of replace
Instead of throwing away a faulty electrical appliance, you can send it for repair or learn how to repair them yourself. Not only does repairing your own items give you a sense of accomplishment; it helps you save money and protect the environment!
3. Donate your usable items
You may not have use for the electronic device anymore, but that does not mean it is of no use to others!
If you feel like you’ve had the item for some time and would like a change, why not pass the old one to someone who needs it? Donating these items for reuse prolongs their lives and thus conserves our natural resources.
4. Recycle e-waste at designated bins
If the item is broken and can no longer be repaired or used, it should be recycled. Recycling allows for materials such as gold, silver, copper and plastics to be recovered and made into new products. The simple act of recycling reduces the amount of new materials being used and our carbon footprint.
How to recycle your e-waste?
Recycling e-waste is best done through recycling points put in place by recycling programs. This ensures that the items are sent to recycling facilities that dismantle and recycle e-waste in an environmentally-friendly manner. E-waste also comprises many different components, and these facilities can also extract the maximum amount of recyclable materials from e-waste using specialized equipment.