Now that we have the figures for the amount of E-Waste humans produced in 2019, we need to move through the five stages of grief and come out the other side with a better plan for how to dispose of our electronics (instead of retiring them to our desk drawer or tossing them into the bin). Electronics have a linear economy between production, distribution, use, and disposal, but we could have a circular economy instead, where the used electronics are recycled into usable materials again. Some programs for this already exist: Apple has a recycling program, even though they don’t talk about it nearly enough, and there are electronic recycling drop off centers, although they’re also ill-advertised. In my community, Goodwill locations are also electronic recycling centers, and I’ve taken a dead laptop battery there before. Drop off was easy and fast, just like making any other donation.
Besides what you can do to recycle your electronics, let’s talk about societal change. What could humanity do to fix this growing issue?
First off, we could be giving this issue a LOT more publicity and attention. Awareness and education is often the best first step (says the teacher). Next time you notice your friend or relative gets the new iPhone or upgrades their laptop, ask them what they’re planning to do with their old one, and give some suggestions about where they could recycle it responsibly. The tiny rush of feeling like you’re a good person is pretty addictive.
We could also start asking large tech companies to make their recycling practices more well known. I can’t speak for everyone, but if I knew that a company was doing the right thing to reduce waste, I’d want to buy more from them in the future. If you agree with me, make it clear to the company how much you would appreciate a buy-back or recycling program.
If you want to take it a step further toward true societal change, you could write to your congressman or local elected representative and let them know that this is an important issue to you. Obviously there’s a lot going on in the world right now, and it can become overwhelming to think about all the issues we need to be working on, and it can make you feel tiny and insignificant and like you can’t really make any change in the world (or is that just me projecting? Whoops.), but that doesn’t mean we can let everything else slip away and let the world burn. Unless you’re chaotic evil and that’s how you like it, in which case, I can think of a few politicians who would probably agree with you.
When it comes down to it, just remember that there are THREE R’s, not just recycling. Before you recycle, you should reuse. Is there someone else who can use your old phone or tablet and give it a new life? Kids love tablets, ask any exhausted parent or guardian. Before you reuse, think about reducing your consumption. If your phone is still working but its battery is a little laggy and it isn’t as cool as this year’s model, maybe resist the urge to buy the new one anyway. A phone’s lifetime is a lot longer than the average owner’s use. Wait until two or even three new models have come out. I’m still rocking my iPhone 7, and don’t plan to upgrade anytime soon because mine is still working great and does its job (even though it can be hard to find phone cases because few people want to sell them for iPhone 7s anymore). Your wallet and the planet will thank you.
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