The State Of Global Electronic Waste In 2017

Many people are always looking for new ways to do more for the environment around us, which is so often neglected in the name of progress. Almost all of us could easily be doing more if we adjusted our priorities, and we know about the importance of things like saving energy, water and so on.

However, it is unusual to speak to anyone who’s particularly well informed about the current state of the world’s electronic waste problem. It’s something that not many people hear about or choose to research because, like many things, it’s simply pushed to the back of their minds. With this in mind, let’s look at the main points about this issue as it stands in 2017.

What is the problem?

Electronic waste (also commonly referred to as e-waste) includes all the appliances and electronic items that we throw away when we no longer want or need them. Kitchen appliances, televisions, laptops, mobile phones and many more goods all come under this category. A lot of this “waste” is actually still functional, but simply redundant because of newer technology being available.

How much is recycled?

It is possible to recycle many of the materials found in these kinds of appliances, and it is also possible to get them sent to people who could actually use them in their current form. However, due to cost constraints and lack of knowledge, only approximately 15% of electronic waste around the world is actually recycled.

What happens to the rest?

Like the rest of our rubbish in countries like the UK and the USA, e-waste is sent to landfill sites when there is no cheap way of doing anything else with it. Many dump sites for this are actually in Africa and China, as developed countries have developed a nasty habit of sending their e-waste to developing ones without taking proper care or responsibility.

What is the result?

The dumping grounds for this e-waste usually end up being highly dangerous, because many chemicals and toxins involved in the production of appliances can slowly leak out into the surrounding environment. Local people in these developing countries are often left to search the scrap for materials they can reuse, but recovering these often requires burning or “acid bathing” which is hazardous in itself.

What is the solution?

A real solution for this problem remains unknown, due to the continued problem we have around the world of incentivising people and companies to take financial responsibility for the waste they create and the damage they do to the planet as a result. There are currently UN rules in place regarding the disposal of e-waste, and many relevant laws which are specific to each country. However, the problem is still a serious one and tougher legislation is being called for around the world to help tackle it faster.

Why it’s getting more difficult to recycle electronics

Why it’s getting more difficult to recycle electronics

We’re buying more new and innovative gadgets every single day to make our lives easier and keep ourselves entertained, but we’re still not paying much attention to those that we already own as they gradually become obsolete. Most of us might be looking at it this way: I bought something a few years ago, and now I have something better. We had a good run, and I got my value out of it. What’s the problem?

Unfortunately, there is still a cost unaccounted for. Cluttering up our environment with unused technology and electronics is just as harmful as the rest of the unnecessary trash we produce every day, and much like the rest of it, we often see filling giant holes in the ground with our unwanted waste materials as the solution. Again, perhaps we rationalise this in our heads on a daily basis, using logic such as: I like recycling. I can see the benefits, so I recycle everything I can, including my old computers, TVs, phones and everything else.

That’s great, but again we have a problem. Recycling electronics is a market, and businesses are certainly in it, but over the past few years it has become increasingly obvious that the profit margins in this sector barely exist. Companies that take away people’s unwanted electronics are finding it almost impossible to find a good use for the materials, and the costs of transporting and storing this huge volume of waste are only going up. It’s expensive to process the different materials in our electronics separately, such as the glass in old TVs, and markets like the one for recycled plastic have become so saturated there’s barely any money in them. (more…)

3 items you should never buy refurbished

Printer

Refurbished gadgets and computers are highly underrated, and something that most of us could benefit more from. A good proportion of deals online for refurbished laptops, tablets, phones, games consoles and many more are actually great offers, with products that have only been opened and never used, or perhaps restored by the original manufacturers. However, there are a small number of items we would always buy brand new. Don’t consider recycled, second-hand versions of these products, or we think you’ll live to regret it.

1) Hard drive

The reason for not being a refurbished hard drive is simple: they don’t really exist. There is actually no way to refurbish an hard drive and get it back to its original, brand new condition. Even if it has merely been used before and not evidently damaged, it’s likely that it has deteriorated, but it’s very difficult to analyse the extent of this. Traditional hard drives contain moving parts and are delicate, so even the better ones tend to age badly. It’s simply not worth investing in a cheap second-hand model that could corrupt or wipe your data. (more…)

Why We Desperately Need More Electronic Recycling

Why We Desperately Need More Electronic Recycling

Electronic waste materials, or e-waste, is currently a massive problem for the world, and one that tends to under-appreciated by most people. The majority of us must realise that as a consequence of our “throwaway society” today, gadgets and equipment can become obsolete faster than ever. We normally focus more on the personal cost of replacing an item, which we may be able to justify, and often fail to consider the impact of the e-waste we are creating by quite literally adding to the growing pile of discarded electronic trash.

However, even knowing and understanding this concept, it can be hard to grasp the reality of our current situation. In 2011, we produced over 41.5 million tons of electronic waste, including televisions, computers, phones, other consumer electronics and industrial equipment. Since then, the figures have increased at an alarming rate, and we are predicted to produce 93.5 million tons, which is over 125% more e-waste in total by the end of 2016.

In only five years, we have increased our turnover of electronic trash to the point where we produce more than twice as much in a single year. By 2020 this is predicted to reach 150 million tons yearly. Meanwhile, the electronic recycling industry is also growing, although whether its growth rate is sufficient to keep up with demand is unclear. In 2012 the industry as a whole was valued at $9.8 billion USD, and based on growth since then, it’s set to surpass $40 million by 2019. (more…)

How To Recycle Your Obsolete Electronics

How To Recycle Your Obsolete Electronics

We talk a lot about the volume of e-waste being produced today, and various problems that may arise as a result of people not recycling their computers, TVs and other items. So, once you’re on board with the idea, how do you go about recycling those electronic goods properly? Here are the options you can usually try.

1) Take-back schemes

The most efficient way for a consumer to recycle old goods is to take them back to the store they were bought at. In Europe, all shops are subject to Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations meaning they are required by law to offer you a way of recycling your old items when they sell you a new model. In addition, the largest stores actually have to provide recycling facilities for small devices such as mobile phones that weren’t necessarily even sold by them. In the US there are many national schemes offering subsidies for similar policies.

2) Local recycling services

If you aren’t buying a replacement model from a major electronics shop or you would prefer a different solution, you can turn to other local services that will process your e-waste and recycle it. There may be local private companies offering the service (although you may need to check their rules to see if your item is suitable), or you may be able to arrange a collection with your local council. (more…)

The Best Time to Buy Refurbished

Refurbished PC's

Refurbished computers are one of the most efficient solutions for computer recycling, since there is little processing involved. Rather than going through the expensive hassle of separating out a machine into its constituent materials and treating each one separately so it can be used again, cutting out this whole process is a lot better for the environment and cheaper for everyone involved.

However, it’s not always ideal to opt for refurbished electronic products. Under certain circumstances, there are risks involved when you don’t know the full history of a product. We have previously gone through the types of electronics that are rarely suitable for buying second-hand, but in other cases, you can get a great bargain by knowing what to look out for. The perfect circumstances for buying refurbished will most likely include the following.

1) A good return policy

Having some time to change your mind, even without having to provide evidence for your reason, is especially important when buying used electronics. You can’t be sure of a computer’s history just from looking at its box or even the product itself, and if you’re getting a cheap deal on something that isn’t even claiming to be in “like new” condition, there could be any number of problems with it. 14 days or more is ideal for a returns policy, but even seven days is better than nothing. If a store doesn’t let you refund any refurbished item, it’s unlikely to be worth the risk. (more…)

Repurpose Your PC’s Unused Bays

Computer Tower

Today we have a fun one for those people who love to maximise the potential of their PCs. If you have a desktop PC, you might be wondering why it has to be so big, and in fact you might have empty bays in your tower that aren’t being used at all! Other than adding additional hard drives or DVD drives, there’s seemingly little you can use the space for. This is where some of these ideas might come in useful. Why not give them a try?

1) Fan control system

Fans are necessary to stop your computer overheating, of course, and some PCs even have a few installed. However, they can get noisy and aren’t necessarily being used appropriate by your built-in software. You can buy an external control system that fits right into a 5.25-inch bay on your tower, and the best ones on the market will display information about your system’s temperate while allowing you to control the speed of your fans.

2) Additional ports and readers

Your PC might not have as many ports as you would like, since we all have different requirements and many models only include the essentials. Perhaps you regularly have to use an adapter to read your SD card, or maybe your USB transfers are a little sluggish because you haven’t upgraded to USB 3.0 yet. It’s easy to find add-ons for PCs that feature all these ports and more, so you can simply slot it straight into a spare bay. (more…)

Guide To Buying Refurbished Laptops & Computers

Refurbished laptops & computers

As we have explained before, just because one person is finished with a laptop or computer, this doesn’t make it the end of its useful life by any means. They can usually be returned to the manufacturer for various reasons in return for a proportion of their money back (depending on the condition of the item). This means the manufacturer is able to “refurbish” them, which only means they do whatever is necessary to get the computer back to a saleable condition.

This may require very little effort, but the price reduction when it goes back on the market can be great. Buying refurbished laptops instead of new can save consumers a ton of money, as you can often get a PC that’s indistinguishable from a brand new model for just a fraction of the cost. Of course you are taking a bit of a gamble because part of the reason for the low prices is to disguise the difference between different refurbishing jobs. Some of the reasons a PC might be classed as refurbished include:

Open box

You can’t be sure what has happened to a laptop in the past if its box has been opened, but in the vast majority of cases, it means someone has simply opened the packaging before deciding to return it. Most of these would be exactly the same as a new unit inside.

Damaged during shipping

If a product’s packaging is damaged during shipping, it will most likely be sent back and the manufacturer can no longer sell it as new, even if the laptop or PC inside is actually unharmed.

Ex-display units

Units that have previously been out on display in stores, even if shoppers couldn’t actually use them, are sometimes classed as just refurbished and may not be explicitly labelled as ex-demo models. (more…)

UK universities funded to research recycled jet fuel

The UK government has recently demonstrated a commitment to improving the environment by developing new aviation fuel in conjunction with universities across the country. The point of the new fuel development is not only to minimise carbon emissions, which is a priority across the world, but the fuel itself will also be made from recycled carbon dioxide and biological waste. This is a great step forward and will hopefully lead to major developments in the future when it comes to sustainable and renewable fuel.

The funding package that was agreed by the government amounts to £2 million and is split between teams at Heriot-Watt University as well as Aston, Oxford and Edinburgh. The two-sided approach to making the new fuel from renewable sources and reducing the pollution it causes is very encouraging for those of us who are interested in recycling and promoting environmental improvements. (more…)

Recycling companies may not be the most efficient way of recycling!

Since people are becoming more aware of the great benefits of recycling electronic waste such as redundant televisions and computers, there is a growing need for companies who specialise in the removal of these old products. E-waste recycling companies are under pressure at the best of times to try and find the most efficient solution for getting rid of all this outdated technology, but recently since more people are realising this is a good thing to do, many companies have been overwhelmed. We have seen this happening in the US and in the UK, plus we have heard reports from elsewhere in the world.

Especially in busy periods like following Christmas, there is a huge influx of e-waste as people replace their old technology. There often isn’t anything wrong with what they’re recycling, and in fact the condition of many discarded products is very good, but if they’re no longer needed by their original owners and not worth a large amount of money, things are often considered waste in today’s society. Space is a key factor here, because people simply have such a large quantity of goods that they can’t store them all in their houses, and old technology tends to be bulky and useless so it’s the first to go. People have limited time to take care of these items and it can seem easier to give them to recycling companies.

However, in terms of efficiency and helping the environment with recycling, this is probably not the best option in many cases. Recycling through mechanical or chemical means takes up a lot of resources, time, energy and money. “Recycling” has begun to mean exactly this, but in fact there are better ways of doing this and minimising the impact on the environment. (more…)