10 Facts About E-Waste
E-waste is quickly becoming one of the largest sources of rubbish in the world. Mobile phones, computers and even television remotes make up around 44.7 million tonnes of waste.
But what do we really know about electronic waste? We know that e-waste production is bad, but inevitable in the age of technology. We know that e-waste is better off being recycled than ending up in landfill.
Let’s take a look at ten surprising e-waste facts:
1. E-Waste is toxic waste
E-waste can contain hazardous materials such as lead, cadmium, brominated flame retardants and mercury, making it toxic waste. When not disposed of in the right way, these toxic materials leak from these electronic devices into the ground. As a result, harmful chemicals can contaminate groundwater and lead to severe human health problems if consumed as well as damaging the environment.
E-waste actually makes up around 70% of toxic waste globally.
2. E-Waste is the quickest-growing rubbish source
The number of electronic devices ending up in landfill increases every year. In 2016, there were almost 50 million tonnes of electronic waste produced.
Because of the alarming increase of this waste type, it is estimated that 2021 will see more than 57 million tons of e-waste if practices do not improve. The World Counts displays the rising estimated amount of e-waste thrown out this year.
3. There are more devices connected to the Internet than humans
The UN and World Economic Forum’s recent report also showed that by 2020, the number of devices connected to the Internet is expected to reach between 25 and 50 billion. This doesn’t include household items like toasters or kettles, but as technology becomes more advanced, perhaps we’ll see an internet-enabled dishwasher on the market!
Recycling e-waste has also become more complicated with advancing technology, with electrical aspects added to furniture and clothing such as smartwatches.
4. Australian households produce 73kg of e-waste annually
This may be one of the most surprising e-waste statistics. The average Australian household produces more e-waste than the size of a teenager!
This could be from discarded electronics that are no longer needed, devices that have reached their ‘end of life’ stage or just a piece of technology that is broken beyond repair.
5. Mobile phones are replaced every two years
An average cell phone user will replace their phone every two years. Of course, the fast-paced technology industry means that new mobile phones have better and faster features. To take advantage of these new features, upgrading your mobile device often has become quite normal.
However, this quick replacement means that e-waste from mobile and cell phones is astronomical. Around 10% of all e-waste is made up of mobile phones. Considering how small a mobile phone is, this percentage is very high.
6. The world is currently only 9% circular
The circular economy is a new buzzword in the e-waste industry. Looking at waste as a whole, from production to recycling to reusing materials, a circular economy aims to reuse e-waste materials to circle back to production. It turns out that the circularity of e-waste is not very high, with a turnaround from recycling all the way to production at only 9% effectiveness.
The Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE)’s recent report revealed that the second ‘Circularity Gap Report’ has shown no improvement in this percentage.
While the circular economy is everyone’s goal, many countries and e-waste disposal processes still follow the linear economy of ‘take, make, dispose’.
7. Recycling e-waste reduces the waste of valuable raw materials
Many parts of electronic devices are made with various raw and valuable materials. Different metals such as tin, copper, silver, zinc and even gold can be found in different electronic products and recovered from these products when they become waste. This means that the average landfill holds millions of dollars worth of precious metals.
E-waste recycling could greatly reduce the need for constant mining of these metals for the creation of the latest devices.
8. 98% of your computer can be recycled
There is only approximately 2% of materials in your computer monitors, screens and laptops that cannot be recycled. 98% of these electronic devices can be recycled and reused to make new products. Parts such as glass from a monitor, keyboards, casing, cables, batteries and circuit boards make e-waste recycling that much more beneficial!
Reusing the materials from these components means there is less manufacturing required to make the materials again, meaning less expense for the economy and saving energy.
9. Only 12.5% of e-waste is recycled
A whopping 85% of all e-waste produced is sent to landfill or incinerators every year. This means that around 12.5% of e-waste globally goes through the recycling process. ]
Recycling e-waste is one of the best ways to reduce landfill intake, decrease toxic waste production and increase our circular economy.
10. 71% of the world’s population is covered by a national E-waste policy, legislation, or regulation.
Finally, a positive fact: while unfortunately some of the world’s e-waste is processed informally and illegally or dumped in landfill, two-thirds of the world’s population or a total of 67 countries are covered by e-waste legislation.
In Australia, the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme enforces strict compliance with national safety standards, Additionally, the export of e-waste to developing countries is regulated under the Basel Convention, meaning that the export of a country’s e-waste has been limited.
What can you do?
The only question that remains is, what can you do with your e-waste?
It’s important to know how and where to dispose of e-waste. Of course, e-waste recycling is the best way to dispose of electronic products that are unwanted, unused, broken or at the ‘end of life’ stage of usage.
Whether you decide to use council drop off/collection or a private pick up service like 1800 E-Waste, it is always important to check what kind of process they go through for disposal.
If you have unwanted electronic devices that are still in good working condition, it is a great idea to consider reusing them. Gifting or donating your dishwasher, toaster or even an old fax machine to a charity shop is a great way to reuse and give back to the community.
Better yet, try advertising your product on an online marketplace. Working white goods, laptops and especially digital cameras are always in high demand. Maybe you’ll fetch a higher price than what you purchased it for!