The E-Waste Crisis: 6 Ways You Can Help
Updated December 2018
The U.S. throws away 9.4 million tons of electronic waste (e-waste) every year. Where does this go? It not only goes to our landfills, but to landfills around the world. Why is this bad? Electronics are filled with toxic materials that seep into the soil. Not only that, but electronics contain valuable metals that can be reused without needing to mine the earth more. It’s true, we have an e-waste crisis on our hands!
Our e-waste problems are serious, but if you’re here, you probably already know that. Here is what you can do to help!
6 E-Waste Solutions Everyone Can Do
Make sure you know where your e-waste goes
Just because they collect your electronic waste doesn’t mean they’ll recycle your e-waste. Be especially wary of flyers dropped off at your house asking you to put e-waste on the street. Often, these flyers neglect to identify their company name. This should be especially alarming. Make sure you give your e-waste to R2 or e-Stewards certified companies. These certifications designate responsible, environmentally friendly e-waste recyclers. Electronic recycling for San Francisco Bay Area residents can be done at GreenCitizen’s Burlingame EcoCenter. For those outside the Bay Area, check our Green Directory.
Clear out your office
Businesses account for a majority of electronic waste generated. So it’s in the business sector where there is the most opportunity for progress. Do your part and request an e-waste business pick-up here. Or mail in your electronic waste here.
Spread the word
The e-waste crisis is a serious problem, but one that flies under the radar. In San Francisco, it’s illegal to throw your electronic waste in the garbage, since it contaminates soil and drinking water when improperly disposed of in landfills. Making people aware of the issue and letting them know what they can do to recycle their electronics is a major part in solving this problem. Just like with battery recycling, a solid network of e-waste recycling will take work, but it can be done. If you want to look for these networks of e-waste recyclers you can do so using the Green Directory.
Extending the life of your electronics is one of the best steps you can take to help the environment. Repairing your items prevents waste from entering landfills, and lowers demand for new electronics. For an understandable tutorial on how to repair almost any electronic item, check out ifixit.com.
Show the value of electronics
Did you know that about 320 tons of gold and 7,500 tons of silver are used every year in the entire world just to make computers? And that for every 1 million cell phones recycled, 35,274 pounds of copper, 75 pounds of gold, and 772 pounds of silver can be retrieved? That means that we could reuse those precious metals without mining the earth. Think of all the resources, like energy and labor, we could be saving and recycling laptops, desktops, and cell phones!
Implore companies to embrace the circular economy
Only 12.5% of electronics are recycled every year. With so many new gadgets appearing all the time, this number should be much higher. We should make the case for tech companies to get onboard with the circular economy. This means we use electronics for as long as possible then rejuvenate their materials into new products, thus minimizing waste.
The effects of e-waste are not only detrimental to earth, but they’re also dangerous to our health. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to make the e-waste crisis a thing of the past.
For more information about the e-waste crisis and what you can do to help, give us a call at (650) 493-8700.
James Kao is the founder/CEO of GreenCitizen, which provides products and services that help make every day Earth Day. He’s passionate about data and sustainability, with a deep background in launching, funding, and managing successful tech companies. James enjoys spending quality time with his family, hiking, traveling, watching well-made documentaries, and eating good healthy food. read more »