Electronic waste, or e-waste, as it has come to be called, is a growing problem throughout the world. As technology advances at an exponential rate, devices such as smartphones, computers, and game consoles quickly become obsolete. Once these devices or any other electrical or electronic device is rendered obsolete or unwanted due to the release of a newer or “better” model, they are discarded without a second thought. Many of these devices, about 80%, end up in landfills where they wreak havoc on the environment.
Electronic waste poses a significant environmental problem as many electronic products contain hazardous materials that, when dumped into a landfill, will leak toxins into the air, soil, and water. In order to prevent this, many people choose to recycle their devices. However, many “recyclers” export the e-waste to other countries that use improper recycling techniques that further leak toxins into the environment. In addition to the contamination of the environment, the discarding of e-waste into landfills results in increased mining operations for the metals used inside of these devices. As demands for these metals increases, so does the cost of electronics production, in turn, raising consumer prices.
Although recycling is thought to be a solution to the e-waste crisis, today’s rate of consumption far outpaces the rate at which e-waste can be recycled. With many companies releasing new devices every year with more advanced features and technologies, consumers are not holding onto their devices in favor of upgrading. The act, known as planned obsolescence, does not necessarily mean that the older devices are unusable. However, consumers want the newest device with the most features and manufacturers want to rake in the profits. The result is an increase of e-waste at an unprecedented rate with which recycling cannot keep up. Recycling electronic waste in a manner that does not cause damage to the environment is a slow and costly process as many components must be removed by hand before enlisting mechanical help to prevent the release of harmful chemicals into the environment.
In conclusion, in order to deal with the growing electronic waste crisis, manufacturers need to be more responsible in their manufacturing practices. One way that they can do this is by designing products to last longer and not releasing new products so often. Apple, for example, has released new phones every year (sometimes more than once in a year). Some of these phones have not been much different than previous models. If Apple were to instead release a new phone every few years with many new features rather than a few small upgrades to something like a camera, then the rate at which consumers produce e-waste will decrease, allowing for recycling to have more of an impact.
- Vaute, V. (2018, October 29). Recycling Is Not the Answer to The E-Waste Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/vianneyvaute/2018/10/29/recycling-is-not-the-answer-to-the-e-waste-crisis/#759450767381
- Whigham, N. (2018, October 30). Get ready for new ban on bin contents. Retrieved from https://www.news.com.au/technology/gadgets/victoria-prepares-for-new-ewaste-measures-to-tackle-one-of-the-greatest-environmental-challenges-of-our-age/news-story/269f9f605fab235311d2ba3d83c518dd