Where does our old tech go to die?

Electronic waste, alternatively referred to as E-Waste, is a direct bi-product of the electronic revolution that stemmed our love and now, reliance, on our electronic gadgets. Our electronic gadgets have completely changed the way in which we live our lives. Prior to the launch of the first commercial mobile phone in 1983, we were reliant on landline phones which were usually one to two per household and business, not one per person. As the name suggests, the mobile phone’s size, shape and transportability opened up a whole new world of communication and accessibility on the go. As time went on and mobile phones become more and more advanced in their capabilities, eventually resulting in smartphones, it’s become harder to find a person worldwide that does not posess one, or at the very least have access to one (and sometimes more). It’s is easier to communicate than it ever was before and our access to information is instantaneous, constant and generally uninterrupted. The electronic revolution has created a level of consumer demand that is largely unprecedented and unwavering, with many clamouring to purchase the latest models of their favourite technology and gadgets.

However, with large scale consumerism comes large scale waste, and in this case – e-waste, which is when our previously beloved devices and gadgets get discarded for a number of different reasons including obsoletion, out-datedness, malfunctioning or redundancy. This includes devices like our mobile phones, laptops, PCs, notebooks, gaming consoles, MP3 players and more. The real question is what happens to all our old technology once we deem it no longer useful? Unfortunately, the e-waste statistics are not encouraging at this stage. According to The World Counts, we generate “40 million tons of electronic waste every year, worldwide.” That is equivalent to disposing of approximately 800 laptops per second. “E-waste comprises over 70% of our overall toxic waste” and “85% of which ends up in landfills.” E-waste is considered toxic due to the chemicals and mineral composition of its core components, as well as the nature of its disposal through incineration and burning. With the average mobile phone user replacing their unit approximately “every 18 months”, that is a significant amount of devices that go to waste in a very short amount of time. It is estimated that annual production of cell phones and computers will increase 8% per year, which is indicative of the desperate need for better e-waste recycling and disposal.

The sad reality is that the vast majority of e-waste isn’t recycled or recyclable and therefore ends up in landfills across Africa and Asia. This is hugely problematic due to the fact that the incineration of these devices in the landfills across the world plays a major role in polluting the planet and releasing toxic chemicals into the ground and atmosphere. It also has major health implications for the landfill workers who are responsible for the e-waste disposal. Therefore it’s up to everyone to dispose of their devices safely and ethically.