Did you know that the amount of electrical waste we throw away is increasing by around 5% each year, which makes it one of the fastest growing waste streams in the UK. This increase is down to a combination of factors; the constant, rapid development of new technologies, an affluent society and a throw-away and upgrade culture. More education is needed to explain the hazards of not disposing of electronic waste responsibly and the impact this can have on the environment. However, it’s not just Britain with a growing problem managing waste from the consumer electronics industry. Electronics waste, particularly waste from batteries, is a growing hazard in developing nations, where much of this waste can ultimately end up.
Efforts to reduce e-waste have led some tech designers to create devices that aren’t as disposable as the gadgets we’re used to. This week, Apple launched Liam; their 29 armed robot programmed to carefully disassemble the many pieces of returned iPhones, such as SIM card trays, screws, batteries and cameras, by removing components bit by bit so they’ll all be easier to recycle.
With the first Liam functioning successfully, and plans for more Liams under way across the world, this is Apple’s plan to become a fully sustainable company. We applaud them, and hope they inspire other large electronic corporations to follow suit.
But what can you do to reduce your own e-waste? We’re here to tell you what you need to know about recycling electricals:
Firstly, try to get broken electrical and electronic items repaired rather than throwing them away.
By recycling waste electronics, you’re ensuring hazardous substances can be removed, stopping large amounts of electrical material going to landfill. Water and soil contamination can have a very harmful effect on the natural habitat, wildlife and also human health. Where landfill sites are situated near populated areas toxins from waste electrical goods can pollute soil and water supplies.
Over 75% of waste electrical goods end up in landfill where lead and other toxins contained in the electrical goods can cause soil and water contamination.
You can recycle all sorts of electrical and electronic products. These range from large items, such as fridges and washing machines, to smaller items, like hair dryers and mobile phones. Under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations, when a shop sells you a new version of the same electrical product, they must provide a way for you to dispose of your old model. Shops can opt to do this in store, or they can set up an alternative take-back service and provide you with information about how you can access this. Shops over a certain size (400 square metres) that sell electricals also have to take back any ‘very small’ electricals, regardless of whether you’ve bought anything from that shop. Items that counts as ‘very small’ are ones that are 25cm or less on their longest side, such as mobile phones.
Alternatively, contact your local recycling centre and find out what types of electronic and electrical equipment they accept and in what condition. You could also ask your council collection service to pick up your unwanted electrical products for recycling.
Why not try giving away your unwanted electricals, as there are now lots of re-use networks in place where you can offer electrical items for others to re-use, or donating the electronics to charity shops, or selling the products?
You can make money by recycling mobile phones, MP3 players and digital cameras through certain companies. For instance, Argos lets you trade in your old tablet or mobile and gives you vouchers for its value. You can use an on-line auction site, such as eBay, to sell unwanted electrical items in good condition.
Remember that some electronics, such as laptops, mobile phones and tablets, will contain personal information about you. So you should wipe any information before you recycle these or give them to anyone else.
Ultimately, more information needs to be given to consumers in order for them to understand how they can recycle electronics or responsibly dispose of unwanted electronic goods and reduce this type of waste going to landfill. There also needs to be a cultural shift to change the disposable mindset that is linked to our electronic purchases; the constant upgrading of items that may still be in good working order. This is driven in part by some large companies who have a culture of “built in obsolescence” with goods not built to last, forcing people to upgrade to their latest model.
However you decide to recycle your electronics, make sure it is done responsibly.
For news and information about the waste management and recycling industry, or to browse a selection of new and used vehicles to service the sector, please visit The Waste Truck Web