Web Design for Change

Recycling – What happens to your E-Waste?

Latest update: November 2, 2020

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This week we will take a look at recycling e-waste at Verena’s Design Studio.

Why is this important? I’m typing this article on my laptop, you are reading it on yours, or your phone or tablet. All of these items will eventually be deemed unusable and then, what do we do?

With more and more of our lives and businesses taking place online and requiring the use of electronic devices we should make sure we know what happens to our electronics when we don't want or don't need them any more.

Not only are some of the components toxic and hazardous and can be a danger to the environment and the people dealing with them, our electronic devices also consist of rare materials, which we loose if we don't recycle them properly.

Let's take a look at what we're dealing with and what we can do.

◼︎Part I - What Happens to Your E-waste?
◼︎Part II - Recycling E-Waste - Best Practices
◼︎Part III - Re-Use: Remarkable E-waste Recycling Companies
◼︎Part IV - Web Design for Change - 5 Excellent Recycling Websites

Part I: What happens to your e-waste?

The global amount of electronic waste or e-waste is growing: from 44.4MT (1MT is one billion kilograms) in 2014 to 53.6MT in 2019, it is expected to reach 74.7MT by 2030.

Like most things concerning enivironmental protection it seems like we should have been talking and doing more about this a long time ago, but since we haven’t  – let’s at least start now.

What exactly is e-waste?

E-waste or electronic waste, also called e-scrap and end-of-life electronics includes anything with plugs, cords and electronic components. The terms are often used to describe used electronics that are nearing the end of their useful life, and are discarded, donated or given to a recycler.

Common sources of e-waste include televisions, computers, mobile phones – almost any household or business item containing circuitry or electrical components with either power or battery supply.

There are 6 different categories of e-waste:

  • Temperature exchange equipment such as refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, heat pumps, etc.
  • Screens & monitors
  • Lamps
  • Large equipment (washing machines, clothes dryers, dish-washing machines, copying equipment, and photovoltaic panels, etc.)
  • Small equipment (vacuum cleaners, microwaves, etc.)
  • Small IT and telecommunication equipment such as mobile phones, GPS, pocket calculators, routers, personal computers, printers, telephones, etc.

How many of these have you disposed of in the last year?

What happens to your e-waste?

At this point in time less than 20% of the global e-waste gets recycled even though e-waste contains valuable non-renewable resources, such as gold, silver, copper, aluminium or cobalt.

from Global E-Waste Monitor 2020

What happens to the other 80%? An undetermined amount of used electronics is shipped from wealthier areas to poorer regions that don’t have the capacity to reject imports or to handle these materials appropriately. This may result in public health and environmental concerns, even in countries where processing facilities exist. Much e-waste also remains in the sheds, attics and storage rooms of its owners or gets disposed of with the normal household bin.

What happens then? When e-waste gets disposed of in normal household bins its usually incinerated or landfilled without recycling, which both causes dangers to the environment and wastes useful materials. There are also private companies and collectors, but chances are high with either of these that they don’t dispose all hazardous materials safely. The only way to make sure that your e-waste gets recycled properly is to deliver it to the official collection points that fall under the requirements of national e-waste legislations. These are in place in 78 ot of 193 countries in 2019, which equals 71% of the global population (this was 61 countries, 44% in 2014).


from Global E-Waste Monitor 2020

What are the effects?

If your e-waste does not get recycled properly it can and in most cases does lead to environmental contamination, this has a negative effect on the communities exposed to contaminated water, air or food (and we’ve seen how pollution for example makes people even more vulnerable when it comes to global pandemics such as Covid).

It also affects the workers directly and we have to be aware that these include children as well.


from Global E-Waste Monitor 2020

What can we do? We will look at different solutions in the next post. For now, just leave a comment, share this article with someone who might find it interesting or just let me know if you have any other questions or if this article was helpful to you. <3

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