This year, the world will see the highest rates of electronic waste in history. Unfortunately, our infrastructure for dealing with e-waste has not caught up to the rapid growth and innovation of the modern electronics industry.
As a responsible consumer, it is important to do your part and prevent old electronics from becoming hazardous electronic waste. Here are the four reasons why e-waste management is so important:
There’s More E-Waste Than Ever
According to the University of Columbia’s Earth Institute blog, we discarded 49 million tons of e-waste in 2016, and that number is on track to grow to 60 million tons by 2021.
Electronic waste is growing at an alarming rate, and there’s no sign of slowing down. Currently, the amount of e-waste worldwide is growing at a rate of 1.8 million metric tons per year.
We all need to be diligent about how we manage our electronic waste. Reducing our e-waste footprint, even on an individual level, will reduce the amount of the most toxic materials polluting our environment.
By managing our e-waste properly, we can reduce the amount of hazardous electronic waste we send to landfills. Therefore, we can reduce the amount of pollution we release into the environment.
We Aren’t Recycling Enough
Obviously, our consumer electronics have to go somewhere after the end of their lifespan.
Unfortunately, many electronic devices go straight into the garbage after we’re done using them. In fact, according to the EPA, only 12.5% of global E-waste is recycled.
This is one reason why we should care more about how our e-waste is managed. If we manage electronic waste properly, it won’t go into a landfill and it will have a smaller impact on the environment.
When products are properly recycled, the components can be repurposed for future use and remain out of the pollution flow. Parts like iron-based metal, glass, and plastic casings can be melted down and reused as raw materials.
However, when E-waste gets thrown into landfills instead of being properly recycled, the environment suffers. Hazardous materials can seep into groundwater reservoirs and eventually out into rivers, lakes and oceans, affecting marine habitats disproportionately.
Most electronics contain toxic materials that are extremely difficult to remove once they’ve entered the ecosystem through illegal dumping or through landfills.
If you’re unable to pursue any local options for e-waste recycling, there are e-waste vendors that can dispatch out to your location. E-waste vendors specialize in recycling various devices and isolating valuable components for reuse.
There are More Data Breaches Than Ever
Data protection and e-waste management are deeply intertwined. Every memory-based device that is improperly recycled or disposed can have its data harvested for valuable information.
When a company is stringent about its data protection practices, it may likely involve the reorganization of data from obsolete sources such as outdated hard drives, servers, and other data-sensitive hardware.
The same goes for citizens on a smaller scale. Being sure about where your data is will reduce the chance that it ends up in the wrong hands. Use a flash drive or external hard drive to relocate data from an old device to a new one.
News of data breaches is all around us in 2019. Think of Yahoo or Equifax’s major security breakdowns as an example – Data breaches are becoming more severe and far-reaching than ever before, potentially affecting millions of people.
When obsolete hardware is considered an afterthought rather than a liability, private citizens and business organizations alike open themselves to the possibility of a data breach.
Managing your own used electronics will require a strict attention to any old, sensitive data that still exists. Be sure to double check for any security liabilities before you handle your e-waste.
Organizations Need Donations
Old devices can be refurbished and repurposed to extend their lifespan. By donating your e-waste, you can provide local institutions with the technology that they need, and transform an inconvenience into a valuable asset once more.
If you have any of the following that aren’t being put to use, consider donating:
- Computer monitors
- Keyboards & Computer Mice
- Cell phones
- Cables (HDMI, USB, AUX, etc.)
Local organizations like schools and libraries will often host donation drives for electronics, or they will simply accept donations year-round. Larger companies like electronics distributors and manufacturers will accept donations and host drop-off sites as well.
You may only be able to pursue a donation if the data on your equipment has been entirely sanitized. Without that guarantee, any loose data could endanger yourself and/or the party you’ve donated to.
Donating e-waste will often assure that your old e-waste will eventually be recycled or disposed of properly by the receiving party. Donations increase product lifespans and prevent further environmental pollution at the same time.
E-waste is a global concern that is showing no signs of slowing down. In 2019, with the lifespan of products becoming shorter than ever as a result of innovation and planned obsolescence, e-waste will only continue to grow at a faster pace.
Recycling or donating your old electronics will prevent them from becoming e-waste in the first place, and expand the lifetime of the materials used.
Proper removal of outdated electronics will also remove any data that is left behind on old hard drives. Get rid of your own security liabilities while contributing to the better health of our planet – it’s a win-win.
Setting the right habits for e-waste management will be the only way that we can tip the scale and reduce the environmental impact of mishandled electronics.
About the Author: John Aaron
John Aaron is a freelance journalist and content creator. His blogging expertise is mainly focused on SEO and content marketing, but he is always looking to immerse himself in new topics and areas of interest. John is based out of Southern California, where he lives with his girlfriend and spends his free time playing music.