While recycling electronic products is a popular way to reduce a person’s carbon footprint, the other two “Rs” of Reduce and Reuse should be taken into consideration. Recycling alone is not enough to lessen our carbon footprint and reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills.
Tech consumers often assume that the only possible end for their products is the trash can or recycling program. Albert Boufarah explains the importance of tech product recycling. He also shows how focusing on reducing purchases and reusing computer products can further help to minimize the size of the waste stream.
According to the UN, only a small amount of the world’s electronic waste is recycled each year: around 12.5 percent. Recycling programs often require that the owner makes a payment when they hand over their property, which some tech users are reluctant to do. For bulkier electronics like heavy office equipment, these fees can sometimes add up quite quickly as well as require costly transportation arrangements.
Why Recycle E-Waste?
Electronic waste should always be recycled. New recycling methods are able to recover valuable materials from these devices. When you recycle your e-waste, you will lessen your carbon footprint. Recycling materials like metal, plastic, and glass represents a smaller use of fossil fuels and other precious raw materials.
Metals are of particular concern in the tech recycling market. Valuable metals like gold, copper, and palladium are used in the manufacturing of electronic products like computers and cell phones. When these materials are separated out of the general recycling stream, they can easily be reused in new products.
Reusing Tech Products
When considering how to shrink the global electronic waste stream, reusing tech products should be considered. Many computers and smartphones are in working order when they are discarded, but they have reached a point of obsolescence where the owner does not want them anymore.
There is no reason why these products cannot be refurbished and reused. Frequently, refurbished computers and other tech products are shipped overseas to developing countries. These programs should be encouraged.
The Tech Industry as a Barrier to Reuse
It makes financial sense that the tech industry discourages the repair or reuse of their products. They do not make money unless a new product is sold. Many environmental advocates criticize the tech industry for making their products so difficult to repair. Often, repair costs for a cell phone or computer are higher than the perceived cost of buying a new product.
In order to fix this problem, computer and phone repair shops need to be given the ability to fix certain software and hardware issues that come up during the use of a tech product. Often, these repairs can only be made by a qualified repair center, meaning that people who live in remote areas are far more likely to simply put their broken products in the trash.
Reducing New Purchases
Though both reusing and recycling tech products is very helpful in reducing waste, consumers must also be aware of the third “R” which stands for Reduce. Reducing means buying fewer tech products and hanging onto them longer.
Rather than upgrading every time a new model comes out, environmental advocates urge tech product owners to hold onto their computers or phones as long as they are useful. Then the products can be placed into a recycling program without any lost utility.
This may be difficult for tech users who have always been interested in owning the newest gear. Changing their attitude toward buying electronics may take time but reducing the purchase of new items is one of the best ways to create a positive environmental impact.
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
A combination of these three methods is the best way to combat the problem of electronic waste. Reducing the purchase of new items is the most underutilized solution, but it can prevent many items from ending up in a landfill. Reusing working machines is another excellent option. Donating them to a charity or a school is a good way to make sure that these products do not go unused.
The Path Forward
Recycling remains an important building block to the health of our environment. When electronic components are recycled, the environmental impact of these products is lessened. Recycling programs, along with encouraging the reuse of materials and reducing the number of machines bought each year, can all be helpful in preserving our environment. Albert Boufarah is dedicated to e-waste recycling and believes that all companies and individuals can do their part for the environment.