Electronics represent a booming industry — worldwide. Consumers across the globe love their devices, from smartphones to laptops to video games and so much more. Consumer electronics are expected to post annual sales increases between $10 billion and $14 billion per year for the foreseeable future.
But while the passion for electronics only seems to get stronger with each passing year, there’s also been a sharp increase in something else: heightened concerns about the rising amount of electronic waste, or e-waste, being generated.
Yes, people love their smartphones – at least until a newer version comes out, and then we’re quick to pitch the older model.
And since those flashy new versions are getting updated more and more frequently, that means the number of used devices is skyrocketing.
According to the Global E-waste Monitor 2017, the amount of e-waste generated in 2016 amounted to 44.7 million metric ton – and that figure is projected to grow to 52.2 million by 2021.
Believe it or not, there are more cell phones than people on the planet, which gives you a good idea of how rapidly consumers are upgrading everything from their phones, computers, and laptops to DVD players, Xboxes, microwaves, and so on.
What’s become so troubling about this trend is what’s happening to the used electronics. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that only 15 to 20 percent of e-waste gets recycled, while the rest of these electronics end up in landfills or incinerators. And we know the toxins inside e-waste are very harmful to our environment – and to people.
The encouraging news is that electronics manufacturing has helped speed up the growth of another industry: the ever-expanding e-waste management market. And it isn’t even just the private market that’s creating more e-waste recycling businesses, which is creating new jobs and economic opportunities worldwide.
Today, a growing number of governments around the world are implementing rules for the regulation, reuse, and recycling of e-waste, ensuring that e-waste in landfills doesn’t become a ticking time bomb.
How is the Environment Impacting the E-Waste Market?
While consumers fall in love with electronics, most people also feel deeply about something else: nature. The beauty and serenity of nature is something we all want protected.
National parks, beaches, lakes and mountains all attract million of people each year eager to escape from their daily pressures to the great outdoors.
What we don’t like are rising pollution levels, whether it’s car exhaust fumes that damage our air quality, or pesticides used to grow food that are known to be harmful. We often look to technology to find ways to reduce those car fumes or to make those pesticides less toxic. Technology often seems like the solution for finding ways to undo, or at least limit, the damage that’s been inflicted on our environment.
But what happens when it’s the technology that we need to worry about?
It’s unlikely that consumers who buy the latest version of their favorite smartphone, then pitch the older version in the trash, are apathetic about the environment. It’s more realistic to presume that they’re not aware of the risks posed by the toxic chemicals used to make electronics, such as mercury and lead, and the dangers they pose to the soil, water and air around the landfills.
This is particularly true in countries like India and Africa, where discarded electronics are often burned in incinerators, sending those chemicals into the air to cause more pollution and increase health risks.
That’s why government leaders, environmental activists, and even the United Nations have been sounding the alarm and trying to educate people with a simple message: if you have a smartphone, laptop or other electronic device that you no longer want, don’t throw it away. Don’t toss it in your closet or your basement. Instead, recycle it.
Recycling, in fact, is a great example of technology helping to solve the problems that technology created.
Is the Recycling Message Getting Through?
Environmental concerns have really changed the way we discuss e-waste. Technological innovations are great – how did we ever live with cell phones that don’t have cameras, emails, maps, etc.
This is no fly-by-night fad. The push to create new and improved versions of existing electronics has proven to be a financial boom for large manufacturers like Apple; there’s an insatiable public appetite for something that’s much better than what you’ve got now.
That’s going to lead to tremendous increases in the amount of e-waste being generated, and we understand the harmful effects caused by e-waste materials to our environment and health.
But today, the recognition that this is a problem that needs to be addressed and solved has led to the development of the global e-waste management market, and in particular e-waste recycling center that are happy to accept those old devices that consumers no longer want.
In the U.S., some states now ban e-waste from being put out with routine household trash. Some European nations have done the same.
And the requirement to recycle and reuse e-waste has helped put a spotlight on another issue: the valuable substances in electrical and electronic devices that can be removed from unwanted devices and used to make new products. This has helped to broaden the concerns, from environmental fears to a recognition of the economic benefits of recycling.
Some parts still have value, which reduces the cost of manufacturing new products.
And that’s how technology is helping to solve the problems that technology created.
How Does the Recycling Industry Act as the Solution?
Today, technology is being used to reduce the damage that high tech inflicts on the environment through e-waste. Recycling e-waste is a guaranteed way to ensure that chemicals like lead and arsenic don’t make it into landfills and drip into the land.
Recycling facilities like the ones operated by Great Lakes Electronics Corporation not only handle thousands of tons of e-waste each year, but also provide data destruction services that ensure any critical information still on your unwanted smartphone or laptop is destroyed, reducing the risk of identity theft and data security issues.
There are other benefits as well. As the Environmental Protection Agency has noted, recycling one million laptops saves energy – enough, it’s been estimated, to provide electricity for more than 3,500 homes in a year. And for every million cell phones we recycle, we can successfully recover thousands of pounds of copper, silver, gold and palladium.
There’s going to be a lot to recycle in the future, considering the reduced life span of electrical, electronic and consumer electronic devices. Fortunately, the e-waste management market is expanding globally.
There’s still a need to get the message out about how important e-waste recycling is. The global e-waste management market also continues to grapple with the problem of unlawful dumping of e-waste materials by developing nations, often by sending this e-waste to emerging regions.
Still, it’s encouraging that the e-waste management market continues to expand, often with the support of governments that have recognized the environmental problems associated with e-waste and taken strong initiatives to invest in e-waste management and recycling.
That’s helping to boost the market growth. But it’s also providing a technological solution to the environment headaches that high tech created.
We’re all fortunate that environmentalists have worked so hard to raise awareness about the risks to the Earth’s resources from the growing amount of e-waste.
We’re also fortunate that governments around the globe, and private businesses, have stepped up as well and invested in a proven solution to e-waste: recycling.
And that’s a strong message to keep repeating: that recycling remains the most effective way to keep e-waste from damaging our environment and our health, which is why you should always take your unwanted electronics to a proven recycling firm like Great Lakes Electronics Corporation.
Great Lakes Electronics has a great reputation for being trusted experts in the recycling and management of waste electronics and other metals. The unwanted equipment brought to Great Lakes is recycled in a responsible, environmentally conscious way, by this family-owned and operated business prides itself as being environmental stewards.
Great Lakes Electronics serves customers both large and small, from private customers to large corporations.
Contact them today at 888-392-7831 to request a quote.