What to do about Electronic Waste

Have you ever wondered what happens to your old electronic items such as mobile phone, PC or TV? In an increasingly consumer based society, most people don’t know or care not to know. The frightening truth about electronic waste is that it is extremely harmful to the environment.

Did you know?

1. 80 to 85 percent of electronic products were discarded in landfills or incinerators, which can release certain toxics into the air.
2. E-waste represents 2 percent of America’s trash in landfills, but it equals 70 percent of overall toxic waste. The extreme amount of lead in electronics alone causes damage in the central and peripheral nervous systems, the blood and the kidneys.
3. 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed worldwide every year.
4. Cell phones and other electronic items contain high amounts of precious metals like gold or silver. Americans dump phones containing over $60 million in gold/silver every year.
5. Only 12.5 percent of e-waste is currently recycled.
6. For every 1 million cell phones that are recycled, 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.
7. Recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 U.S. homes in a year.
8. A large number of what is labeled as “e-waste” is actually not waste at all, but rather whole electronic equipment or parts that are readily marketable for reuse or can be recycled for materials recovery.
9. It takes 539 pounds of fossil fuel, 48 pounds of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water to manufacture one computer and monitor
10. Electronic items that are considered to be hazardous include, but are not limited to:
• Televisions and computer monitors that contain cathode ray tubes
• LCD desktop monitors
• Laptop computers with LCD displays
• LCD televisions
• Plasma televisions
• Portable DVD players with LCD screens.

Source: Do Something

My current school in Egypt has teamed up with ‘Recyclobekia‘ an electronic waste (e-waste) collection company that helps individuals, institutes and co-operations to either recycle e-waste or dispose of it responsibly. We were approached by Recyclobekia and without hesitation we accepted the challenge of making a difference to our environment. This is a new initiative, so further details to follow later. Below is an introduction video to the concept of recycling e-waste by Recyclobekia, although the video is in Arabic you get the idea through animation. Thumbs up for Recyclobekia.

The above and the like are great initiatives and go a long way in reducing e-waste. However I believe that even simple and practical ideas such as educating users about safe use just as you would educate people about safe driving will also reduce e-waste. Safe use allows users to maintain the life cycle of their technology for longer. Educating users about ‘fit for purpose’ is something I have been teaching as part of the British ICT curriculum for years now, is about understanding your needs as a user and making an informed choice. Do you have to upgrade to the latest Windows OS? Do you have to upgrade to the latest Office packages? Do you really need a faster machine? Propriety companies will have you believe that the latest is the best solution ever. Now is the time to get the latest. The main interest of propriety companies is to make profit. It is in their interest for you to purchases the latest. You (the user) have to decide whether the latest is the best for you.

Educate more, learn more, spend less, waste less.

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