E-Waste: The Next Pollution Problem

Our tech addiction has a big carbon footprint. As we constantly ditch the old and in with the new, the throw-away culture of tech is starting to show. While our electronic waste piles up, we are putting even more pressure on the Earth’s resources as we continue to mine materials for our latest must-have gadgets. As it becomes clear we can’t escape our e-waste, scientists are urging consumers to let go of the throw-away culture of tech and instead harness the power of reusing and recycling to help make a more sustainable industry.

TV boxset

What is e-waste?

Indispensable to the modern world, we have never been more reliant on our smart gadgets. From phones, tablets, laptops and everything else, the modern world follows the consumption pattern of fast fashion – trend-driven and throw-away. As we jump from the latest model to the next, millions of gadgets are being stockpiled and hoarded at home.

E-waste is discarded and redundant electrical items that get thrown away in landfills or left in cupboards and drawers. E-waste, or electronic waste, can include anything that contains a plug or electronic element, from laptops to televisions and home appliances.

The environmental impact of e-waste

As our demand for new technology is unwavering, our tech waste is now heavier than the Great Wall of China. One study estimates discarded electronics weigh 57 million tonnes and have a material value of £46 billion. The UK is one of the biggest culprits for household electrical waste across the globe and as the world’s electronic pollution piles up, it’s suggested only 20% of this waste is recycled. The UN predicts by the end of 2030, the number of discarded products with a battery or plug will double.

When unwanted or broken appliances languish in landfills, this can cause environmental damage as toxic substances such as lead and mercury can leak out into the surrounding area. Our gadgets also contain precious metals such as gold, platinum and aluminium, meaning we are throwing away valuable materials that could be recycled and reused.

With current affairs and political unrest, there has been the added stress of price increases and supply chain issues surrounding mining. Materials such as lithium, an element used within batteries, have increased nearly 500% between 2021 and 2022. Our reliance on the planet and its growing vulnerability have never been clearer, and systematic change to build recycling schemes and infrastructure to support an eco-friendly transition in the tech world has never been more important.

As we continue to mine the Earth of its precious metals, we are sitting on valuable electronics that can be recycled and reused to help ease the pressure on our planet.

Understandably, learning how to recycle our gadgets properly can seem a little tricky. Here are some tips and tricks.

What can you do to help reduce e-waste?

  1. Delay upgrading your gadgets. Use what you have for as long as possible.
  2. Can your phone or laptop be reused or given to friends and family?
  3. Use second-hand tech. Not only does buying second-hand save you money, but you are also helping the environment.
  4. Repair your electronics.
  5. Find your nearest recycling points and book your electronics in.
  6. Donate your gadgets to charity.
  7. Knowledge is power, read more on how our phones have a carbon footprint

Now more than ever, it’s important to reuse, reduce and recycle. Let’s mine our e-waste, not the planet.