OUR E-WASTE PROBLEM
Were you gifted yet another unneeded donut maker or fondue fountain for Christmas? After being stored in your kitchen for a short while, your electronic waste or ‘e-waste’ will eventually be thrown into landfill. E-waste includes any gadgets with a battery or power cord, including kitchen appliances and white goods. Throwing these unwanted items into landfill isn’t just wasteful; it is harmful to our environment.
The issue with e-waste The consequences of our lust for the latest and greatest gadgets are disturbing. According to the government of Victoria, Australia, in 2016 we produced almost 45 million tonnes of e-waste globally and sadly only 20 per cent was recycled. The rest went straight to landfill. Burying enormous volumes of e-waste is simply not sustainable.
When we throw away electronics, we waste the resources used to make them and produce even more greenhouse gases trying to mine and process more metals for new ones. E-waste contains valuable metals that can be recycled and reused multiple times. We are literally throwing away tonnes of precious metals like copper, gold and silver every year. These resources are limited, once they end up in landfill, they are gone forever. The Victorian Government is putting a ban on e-waste in landfill from 1 July 2019 (you could lobby your government to do the same).
If not recycled properly, our devices can end up in e-waste graveyards in Asia, Africa and South America. There you find children gathering and burning e-waste while inhaling toxic fumes that increase their risk of lead poisoning. Burying it is also a bad idea as heavy metals can leach into the soil and potentially enter the food chain. According to community group Clean Up Australia, a massive 70% of the toxic chemicals in landfill, such as mercury and lead, come from e-waste.
Do you really need to upgrade? Only upgrade your gadgets when they have reached the end of their life and cannot be repaired. Before buying new electronics do your research and invest in items that can be repaired and recycled. Often slimmer designs are glued or soldered together, making them difficult to recycle or repair. Support companies that create sustainable designs.
How to recycle your e-waste If you have somehow ended up with more electronics than you can use, give them to friends or a local charity. Check out online communities like Oz Recycle where you can give away unwanted electronics to people who need them. For any electronics containing personal data such as mobile phones or computers, use the factory reset setting to wipe the data before giving them away.
If your e-waste can’t be re-used, recycle it. You can often recycle e-waste for free, just Google ‘nearby e-waste drop off locations’ or contact your local council. Some governments have implemented stewardship schemes that require manufacturers of electronics to fund the collection and recycling of their products when they can no longer be used. In Australia, visit Recycling Near You to find local drop off points for a range of e-waste, even whitegoods and light bulbs. In Europe you can return e-waste to the retailer, as they are required by law to organise suitable recycling (why isn’t the rest of the world doing this?). Whereas in the US, recycling schemes vary in each state so you will need to contact your local government authority to find drop off points.
E-Waste in a Nut Shell
- To reduce your environmental footprint, minimise your e-waste.
- Extend the life of your electronics by repairing them and replace only as needed.
- Recycle electronic appliances and gadgets at the end of their life.
- Choose electronic goods carefully and support companies with repairable and recyclable designs.
Thanks to Rachel Ananin AKA TheSeasonalDietitian.com for her assistance with this article.
Nicole Senior is an Accredited Nutritionist, author, consultant, cook, food enthusiast and mother who strives to make sense of nutrition science and delights in making healthy food delicious. Contact: You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or check out her website.