2021 saw a record 14.91 billion mobile devices operating worldwide, with this figure expected to rise to 18.22 billion by 2025*
It’s safe to say that we like our technology, but with an ever-increasing number of devices in circulation comes the growing problem of e-waste.
What is E-Waste?
Electronic waste (or e-waste) is defined as any broken or discarded item or device with plugs, cords or electronic components.
Why is it Important?
Take a look around you – how many electronic devices are in the room? Whilst the obvious ones like phone, laptop or tv might stand out, there are likely to be many more devices with electronic components in them than you think.
Many products are mass-produced to meet consumer demands, opting for quantity over quality and often resulting in unsustainable products with a short lifespan. Due to the volume of products being produced, it is typically more cost-effective to throw away the device and buy a new one than it is to have the faulty device repaired – generating a staggering and excessive amount of e-waste.
One of the main challenges with e-waste is palpable when we try to dispose of these items. Electronic devices are much more difficult to dispose of due to the variety of different materials required to construct the electrical components, such as copper, plastic, fibreglass, resin, aluminium, ceramic and many more. Breaking electronic devices down into these individual materials is incredibly difficult, time-consuming and costly which often results in them being disposed of unsafely. Some devices contain substances such as solvents, mercury, lithium, carbon and other petroleum-based chemicals which, when disposed of incorrectly, pose a significant hazard to the environment, wildlife and humans in turn.
However, steps are being taken in the right direction – in 2021 the UK Government introduced the ‘Right to Repair‘ law, requiring manufacturers to provide spare parts for devices that they produce and sell. Whilst this law is currently somewhat ambiguous, it puts pressure on manufacturers to provide spare parts, as well as engineering products in a more sustainable method to host more replaceable components.
As an individual consumer, you can have an impact by managing and reducing your e-waste. There are a number of ways you can do this, such as:
- Repairing or replacing individual components on a faulty device wherever possible before discarding it.
- Selling, trading or gifting any unwanted electronic devices, rather than disposing of them.
- Prolonging upgrading devices where possible – try to opt for devices that allow you to upgrade individual components.
- Consider buying refurbished or used electronic items where possible.
- Ensuring you take your broken electronics to an authorised recycling point for electric devices. Different items may have different recycling needs so check with your local council for guidance on this.