By Neha Saraf
| In my last blog post, I covered some of the devastating effects of e-waste. Now, I would like to list several steps individuals & corporations can take or have taken to develop responsible e-waste management.
As consumers of electronic goods, it is our responsibility to know the impacts our purchases make and lessen any negative consequences through educated choices, company research, and even activism. There are several actions consumers can take against this e-waste crisis. For instance, consumers should buy products that use recycled materials or can be updated rather than being dumped when newer versions appear. In addition, consumers can buy energy-saving appliances to cut their environmental impact. Additionally, consumers purchase products with strong take-back policies. Individuals should research these policies to ensure that the companies properly dispose of the old items. Moreover, consumers should research proper methods to recycle or donate used electronics. The EPA manages a list of recycling and donation-based organizations. Consumers can also join campaigns such as the Enough Project to spread awareness of e-waste and the harm it causes. Lastly, concerned consumers can contact electronic companies and demand for higher quality products that last longer and can be repaired rather than thrown away. It is vital that consumers recycle old electronics so that energy can be conserved. According to the EPA, recycling one million laptops can save as much energy used by 3,500 homes in a year. In addition, recycling one million cell phones results in the recovery of 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium. These are significant savings that could be reused rather than mining for more minerals. The infographic below summarizes how to recycle e-waste properly.
Corporations have the most potential for solving the current e-waste crisis. They have to be accountable for their products from production to disposal, and can implement new disposal strategies to avoid dumping electronic good in developing nations.
Sprint’s Buyback program illustrates a great example of how this mobile carrier strives to counter e-waste issues. The unique aspect of Sprint’s Buyback program is that they will cell phones “regardless of carrier or condition” and consumers are eligible for up to $300 per device (Fava, 2012). After testing the old phones, Sprint sells most of them as refurbished pieces. Sprint has saved a billion dollars in cost by recycling phones, and there seems to be an increasing demand for these phones in the global market. Phones that cannot be salvaged are sent to recyclers with proper validation. Due to their efforts in e-waste recycling, the EPA recognized Sprint for their excellent technotrash management.
Another company making revolutionary changes in e-waste management is Attero Recycling, an Indian based e-waste recycling company. Bangalore, India produces 18,000 metric tons of e-waste annually, and is growing 20% annually (Timmons, 2013). Attero Recycling extracts precious metals such as gold, platinum, etc. from e-waste, and in 2013, this company was processing 1,000 metric tons of e-waste per month from over 500 cities in India (Timmons, 2013). Attero Recycling is not only benefiting the environment, but also making huge profits from e-waste with $15 million earned in 2013 alone. They plan to globalize their company to Mexico and Ireland to properly recycle e-waste there as well. Other companies need to follow suit and take accountability for their electronic products.
Through individual and corporate action, many steps can be taken to reduce the impact of digital dumps. In addition, individuals and corporations have the power to place pressure on governments refusing to comply with e-waste management methods. Only through the joint effort of individuals, corporations, and governments can there be the potential to eliminate digital dumps and implement safe and efficient e-waste procedures.
Image 1: Attero
Image 2: Cincinnati Computer Cooperative
Image 3: Sustainable Brands
Image 4: Behance