Friday, April 4, 2014

E-Waste: What YOU can do!

While you have a look at your mobile phone to check the recent post on Facebook, read current Whatsapp messages or even look at this blog—imagine how long you will have this mobile phone for. Two years? One year? Maybe less. And what about your laptop? Your TV? iPad or iPod? The pace of development of technical innovation and more performance and features has increased within the last years, leading us to renew our electronic devices more frequently.

And now just imagine how this happens not only in your household but also in a $175 billion market like the US consumer electronics industry. The central question is: What can you do with your old devices? What did you do in the past to save guacamole?

Often e-waste is discarded at landfills as part of the normal garbage. It does not require an Einstein-like brain to figure out that this is not the preferred solution. Harmful chemicals such as lead, mercury and cadmium that are included in most (all) electronic devices may leach from landfills and eventually contaminate the environment and finally harm nature and humans. If the devices do not end up in domestic landfills, they might reach China, India or Nigeria. Have a look at this very interesting short video that shows how this unacceptable process works:

But enough about the dark side of the electronic device you hold in your hand. There are several options for how you can change this situation!

The easiest one is to give your old device to a friend or family member. This is a win-win situation. Your family member / friend is happy about the device (maybe a student who can’t afford a new mobile phone / laptop, etc.) and you are glad you did not support the increasing amount of electronic waste on landfills or in developing countries.

Image via Cell Phones for Soldiers
Another option is donating your (functional) e-waste. There is an interesting website that collects cell phones for soldiers. Their mission is to enable soldiers calling home from the battle field. Sounds like a great deal, doesn’t it?

The third option is the so-called e-cycling (recycling for electronics, see here for more information), which has to be seen as controversial. Why? Because it is a market and where there is a market there is also a black market. There are lots of e-cycle offers out there, promising to recycle your electronics in an environment-friendly way. One guess where the devices might end up to boost profits? Exactly: Developing countries. So if you want to e-cycle, try to figure out if the original supplier or retailer takes back the device. A good example is DELL computers that launched a free e-cycling program in 2006.

While companies can contribute to e-cycling, they still need YOUR help. It seems like there are no incentives for e-cycling as it is more convenient to throw the mobile devices into the garbage—but as seen in the above video: is that what you want to support? Lets make a step to reduce our footprint on this earth by taking care where our e-waste ends up!

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