You’re reading this blog right now from your computer, phone, or tablet, and chances are that your current electronic device replaced an older one that was obsolete or broken. What did you do with that older device?
You probably threw it away. In 2009, Americans threw away an estimated 2.37 million tons worth of electronics, according to the EPA. Today, we’re consuming phones, tablets, computers, and TVs faster than ever, so this number will likely be even higher in 2014.
Throwing away our electronics is a problem because it’s not being done properly. As a result, there is an alarming amount of electronic waste (e-waste) growing with each passing day, and it’s destroying the environment.
The Dangers of Electronic Waste
Out of the million tons of e-waste the US throws away every year, roughly 25 percent is recycled. The other 75 percent is just discarded.
This practice wastes valuable resources. Many electronics contain precious metals, such as gold, silver and copper, which can be reclaimed through recycling. According to Business Insider, Americans dumped cell phones containing more than $60 million worth of gold and silver. That’s huge!
Don’t forget the environmental impact. Electronics contain a variety of toxic substances, which can seep into the ground. This is not only dangerous to nearby communities, but to the entire planet.
Electronic Waste Concerns on the Rise
E-waste is a serious problem. Marketsandmarkets estimates that the global volume of e-waste generated is expected to reach 93.5 million tons in 2016, a significant increase from the 41.5 million tons in 2011. Dumping our electronics overseas has created massive landfills, and these mountains of e-waste will continue to grow as other countries join the mobile revolution.
How We Can Help Reduce Electronic Waste
Here are a two, very simple steps we can take to combat this problem.
- Reduce the amount e-waste we produce by recycling or donating our used electronics. This will conserve valuable natural resources and reduce harmful toxic emissions.
For instance, the EPA reported that by recycling one million laptop computers, we can save the energy equivalent of the electricity used by more than 3500 US homes in a year. For every million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.
Of course, it’s important to identify reputable recycling centers, since many don’t follow proper recycling protocols. You can find reputable recyclers using online resources, such as E-cycling Central and the EPA. Once you choose a location, you can double-check their methods by asking a few questions. Not sure what to ask, start here: “Questions to Ask Potential Recyclers.”
- Another way to reduce e-waste is by using our electronics longer. It’s estimated that Americans only use their devices for an average of 2-3 years before replacing them. Resisting the urge to switch to a bigger TV or upgrade cell phones every two years can drastically help to reduce e-waste. Simply doubling the average length of time an electronic is used can reduce the amount of e-waste by half.
Recycle to Help the Planet
As you can see, it doesn’t take much to make a significant difference.
For instance, at FrontPoint, we’ve begun an initiative to reduce the amount of waste we produce, including e-waste. We started with the basics, like shredding paper and recycling our boxes, plastics, and shipping materials. But now we’re incorporating the proper disposal of electronics into our plan, from recycling batteries to making sure older pieces of equipment reach the proper hands.
The next time you replace any electronic device, don’t throw the old one away like another piece of trash. Not only is it a waste of valuable resources, but it’s also adding onto this serious problem. Recycle your gadgets instead, and help reduce the amount of e-waste that is hurting the planet.