As society continues to run on advanced technology, electronics are constantly evolving and updating. When new technology is released, it’s not long until the old reaches the end of its life. Considering the lifespan of a cell phone is now only 18 months and a laptop’s life span is only around two years, a rapid growth rate in electronic waste, or e-waste, isn’t surprising. What is surprising, however, is how little the public knows about e-waste.
Millions of tons of electronic waste are produced globally every year. According to the United Nations, the world discarded 53.6 million tons of e-waste in 2019. This is 21% more than 2014 and will double in just 16 years. It is estimated that global e-waste volumes could increase by as much as 39% to 74.7 million tons a year by 2030. We know the amount of waste is rapidly growing, but how much of that waste is actually being recycled?
The United Nations reported that only 17.4% of e-waste discarded in 2019 was recycled. The United States generated 6.92 million tons of e-waste, about 46 pounds per person, in 2019. It recycled only 15% of the material. The value of the raw materials contained in the e-waste produced in the U.S. during 2019 was $7.49 billion. That’s right. We threw away billions of dollars worth of materials that could be used again.
Electronic donation and recycling is a great way to help conserve resources and natural materials. Electronic products are made from valuable resources and materials, including metals, plastics, and glass, all of which require energy to mine and manufacture.
Donating or recycling consumer electronics conserves our natural resources and avoids air and water pollution. It also conserves greenhouse gas emissions that are caused by manufacturing virgin materials. According to the EPA, For every million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.
Why Recycle E-waste?
E-waste is a growing environmental concern worldwide. It can take thousands of years to decompose. During that time, it has a damaging and long-lasting effect on the environment. As electronics break down in landfills, they release toxic chemicals into the soil, contaminating plants and trees. Some of these chemicals include lead from circuit boards and lithium from batteries. They also have the potential to make their way into human and animal food supplies.
Recycling e-waste is not only good for the environment, but it also allows for better data security, the recovery of precious metals, and can even save you money because many electronic companies offer discounts on new devices when you trade in the old ones.
Today, numerous ways to recycle electronics exist. You don’t need to go out of your way to help save the planet.