Disposing of electronic items as waste is a major problem, especially considering the amount of electronic waste it ends up generating. The most recent figures we have for this type of thing are from 2019, and it turns out that 50 million tonnes of e-waste was produced this year alone. The pandemic is likely to increase the production of waste due to the fact that it’s the kind of thing that could potentially cause us to use electronics more often.
This means that we could see a 40% increase in the amount of waste produced in the current decade, which would cause huge environmental problems if certain measures are not taken to reduce the problem. According to industry knowledge, only about 20% of this waste would be recycled, meaning the vast majority of it will end up in landfills and the like, which is arguably the worst outcome we could have ever achieved.
All that being said and now dismissed, it’s important to note that the strongest growth in e-waste is seen in Asia. This is because these countries are seeing a massive increase in the wealth of their average citizens, which makes them much more likely to produce e-waste of a wide range of varieties. If you look at the countries with the highest generation of e-waste, three of those countries are Asian, namely China, India and Japan. Taiwan is also a major producer of electronic waste.
Governments really need to start tackling e-waste before the problem really starts to get out of hand. About 12% of the total e-waste that could be produced will come from smartphones and the like, and when you combine that with the fact that about 80-90% of the carbon footprint of these devices comes from their manufacturing process, the speed at how much we use and dispose of these phones is far too high to be environmentally sustainable, all things having been considered and taken into account.
These smartphones use quite a bit of rare metal to be made, and when you look at the scale at which these phones are made, suffice to say that mining this metal is something that can cause widespread damage to various ecosystems as well. than the planet in general. Japan has started to take measures to combat this, such as its use of smartphone waste to create medals for the next Olympics, but this is something that needs to be implemented with great care lest it be does more harm than good.
A measure taken by the UK could be one of the best ways to reduce e-waste, giving users the legal right to repair their phones. Previously, major smartphone makers like Apple strongly discouraged their users from repairing their smartphones on their own, often making it more expensive to have it repaired than just buying a new phone. Steps like this need to be taken and governments need to start working on it as soon as they can.
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