Whenever people hear the word “eWaste,” the next thing they think of is phones, computers, printers, etc. But it goes beyond that. It refers to any unwanted electronic product that’s either not working or getting to the end of its useful Life. The products could be computers, televisions, VCRs, stereos, copiers, fax machines, or any other everyday electronic product.
Unlike other types of trash, eWaste is reusable, recyclable, and refurbishable. That’s what makes them unique.
According to a 2015 inaugural global outlook at the production, impacts, and management of e-waste by the United Nations University, about 67 percent of e-waste produced in 2014 (46.1 million tons) are from everyday products like washing machines, dishwashers, toasters, etc.
A report published by Global E-waste Monitor 2014 shows that the increasing demands for electrical and electronic products and their short lifespan have made e-waste problems increase greatly.
And most of these unwanted electronic products aren’t recycled or reused. So, many of these valuable materials are either landfilled or find their way into developing countries with little or no standards. This could cause possible environmental and health hazards.
However, recycling some of this e-waste will make a difference. But you can’t achieve this without a positive mindset towards recycling because how you think can influence the way you recycle.
Categories of E-waste Items
Generally, there are 5 different categories of e-waste items – home appliances, communication and IT devices, home entertainment devices, office and medical equipment, and electric utility devices.
Any electronic or electrical products that assist in household functions like cooking, cleaning, etc. They include; heaters, microwaves, electric cookers, home entertainment devices, fans, etc.
Communication and Information Technology Device
Here are e-waste products under communication and Information technology – smartphones, cell phones, desktop computers, computer monitors, circuit boards, laptops, hard drives, etc.
If you are wondering how to reduce waste drastically, read our guide here.
Home Entertainment Devices
E-waste home entertainment devices are Blu Ray players, DVDs, stereos, televisions, Video game systems, fax machines, copiers, etc.
Electronic utility e-waste includes heating pads, massage chairs, television remotes, remote controls, lamps, electrical cords, treadmills, diabetes testing equipment, etc.
Office and Medical Equipment
Office and medical equipment e-waste are; cords and cables, IT server racks, dialysis machines, imaging equipment, phone & PBX systems, audio and video equipment, etc.
Rich Source of Raw Materials
eWaste products are a great source of raw materials. According to the United Nations, electronic waste contains a high deposit of precious metal that’s richer than ores mined from the earth. Sadly, only 10 to 15% of gold from e-waste is recovered; the rest is lost due to poor recycling commitment.
Solid Waste Management
Ordinarily, there’s rapid growth in the electronics industry, and these products have short useful life cycles. So, there’s a general escalation in solid waste generation. However, when these unwanted electronic products are recycled, solid waste that would have been generated will be turned into something more valuable and less toxic.
Every eWaste contains toxic substances like lead, mercury, cadmium, and chromium, etc. Some of these substances are not environmentally friendly, and when disposed of, they could emit toxic chemical flame retards.
But when these wastes are recycled (rather than landfilled), some of these dangerous substances won’t be going to the environment. Instead, they will be recreated into something else.
Reduces International Movement of Hazardous Waste
Most times, developing countries are used as a dumping ground for eWaste. These countries have a primitive recycling approach that could expose residents to the release of harmful toxins, and it’s a related health risk.
However, e-waste recycling programs reduce the movement of hazardous waste to developing countries. Instead, these wastes are recycled or refurbished into something better and more beneficial.
You can’t overemphasize the importance of recycling eWaste. If we continue to improperly dispose of plastic, glass, and heavy metals from electronic products, it won’t only pollute the land and air, it will also seep into water sources. This could lead to serious harmful effects for marine life.
What are The Best Ways to Recycle Electronic Waste?
As a general rule, reduce and reuse should always come before recycling. Which means everyone should consider buying fewer electronic products and should be doing their part to manage and take care of them in order to reduce the need for them to be recycled.
If recycling is necessary, even though the process is fairly simple, it does require some degree of knowledge. Otherwise, the entire recycling program could become counterproductive. So, here are some things to consider when it comes to recycling your electronic waste…
#1. Extend the Life of your electronic device
Another good way to reduce e-waste is to make sure you’re doing your part to extend the Life of your electronic device. If possible, use covers, cases, screen protectors, and other protective items to extend your device’s lifespan. In a nutshell, try to use your electronic device to their full potential.
#2. Donate Your Unused Devices
You can also donate your unwanted and unused devices. It’s another effective way of e-waste recycling. You can contribute your unused electronics to children’s safety groups, developing countries’ classrooms, etc. If you can’t send the devices directly, you can sell them and send the proceeds to people who need them.
Generally, it’s advisable to carry out an inventory of your eWaste or reusable electronic products before you start the recycling process.
#3. Remove all your data from your e-devices before recycling them
The first thing to do before recycling any of your unwanted electronics is to remove your data.
These e-devices often contain personal and confidential information. Leaving them unwiped before recycling could pose a serious fraud treat. Don’t allow anybody to mislead you into believing that data thievery is harmless. Hackers can use it to penetrate your information and take control of your data.
So, before you start recycling your old electronics, wipe out all your data from them. Here’s how to delete data from your e-waste before recycling:
- As a rule, back all the data up before deleting it permanently. You can use an external hard drive or flash drive to store it.
- There’s a difference between deleting data permanently and sending it to the recycle bin. Take note of this. Ensure you delete all the personal information permanently (that means deleting what’s in the recycle bin too).
- You can decide to encrypt and write over the data on your device. The essence of this is that even if the old electronics’ data are hacked, they can’t be decrypted.
- Run a factory hard reset on your device to permanently delete all your data
#4. Search For an E-waste Recycling Drop-off Point
You can decide to recycle your eWaste yourself by searching for a recycling drop-off location. This is typically the easiest and most convenient method. All you have to do is search for an e-waste recycling drop-off point close to your location. They will always be happy to help out with your unwanted electronic products.
#5. Return the Electronic Products to the Seller/Manufacturer
Another good way to recycle e-waste is to search for exchange or send-back programs. Popular electronic manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, LG, Dell, Motorola, have exchange and send-back programs for their mobile phones, television sets, home appliances, and computers.
Exchange and send-back initiatives are an effective way to recycle eWaste and greatly reduce the amount of waste in landfills.
Frequently Asked Questions about eWaste?
What is eWaste?
Most times, the term e-waste is used to describe consumer and business electronics approaching the end of their useful Life. There are a lot of controversies surrounding the definition. For instance, it’s still unclear where items like microwaves and other similar appliances should be categorized.
Is eWaste Considered Hazardous?
The answer to this question is relative. Some electronic products contain hazardous materials depending on their density and condition.
Basically, there are three ways to discard unused electronics – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
Reduce: This involves reducing the amount of e-waste you dispose of. The easiest way to achieve this is through smart procurement and good maintenance.
Reuse: Instead of discarding unused electronics and equipment, you can donate or sell them to someone who can still use them. With this, you will reduce environmental toxicity and conserve landfills.
Recycle: If you have non-functioning electronics that can’t be repaired, don’t discard them in the trash. Instead, recycle them. For electronic products like computer monitors, televisions, and other electronic equipment that aren’t functioning, look for an organization that will recycle them. It’s a great way to turn e-waste into something more valuable.
Here’s another article about how you can reduce your eWaste both in the office and at home.