This isn’t helped by the old market adage that a product that lasts a lifetime is damaging to a company’s bottom line, as the customer stops spending money on new versions of a product and the company runs into financial problems.
This is the story of the e-dumps where your unwanted devices go to rot and wreak havoc on the environment, as well as the e-waste recycling companies trying to reverse society’s tendency to throw away rather than reuse.
E-waste is becoming a big problem all around the world
The World’s Worst E-Dumps
The dumping of defunct electronic products is nothing new with most products at one time or another having been abandoned out of sight and out of mind. NASA for example still use what they call the spacecraft cemetery, a spot in the Pacific Ocean that the space agency deems an acceptable place to crash land old space craft with no regard for the marine life they disrupt in the process.
Those naughty astro scientists are far from the only guilty party. Before laws were changed, Las Vegas casinos regularly ditched their out-of-date electronically tagged poker chips at the bottom of Nevada’s Lake Mead or even threw them into the concrete foundations of new buildings, to join those unfortunate individuals who fell foul of local mob bosses…
These days there are restrictions in local jurisdictions about where companies and organizations can dispose of their unwanted electronic devices, leading them to export them abroad. Unfortunately, this often means that the problem is displaced rather than dealt with, leading to less developed countries shouldering the burden.
The main places e-waste is sent to are sorting warehouses in China and India, as well as open air dumps in Africa, where workers sift through the waste shipped in from abroad, so that some of it can be re-purposed. However, despite their efforts it is predicted that only around 20% of electronic waste is recycled, with the rest left to contaminate local environments.
Too any manufacturers create devices with short lifespans, leading to increased waste
The Companies Trying to Make a Change
Although the problem of e-waste at first seems an insurmountable challenge, there are companies out there whose mission it is to re-purpose and recycle products deemed useless by tech giants and consumers alike. Indeed, some are even making million-dollar profits, benefiting from the profligacy of big business.
One of the biggest firms doing this are Rubicon Global, who use machine learning and tech solutions to analyze a company’s waste flows and create solutions of how best to recycle as much of said waste as possible.
When it comes to upcycling, there are even companies out there turning old electronic chips and motherboards into jewelry and artwork.
Getting Companies to Reduce Waste in the First Place
That all said, the absolute best way to make the digital and online revolutions sustainable is to reduce the e-waste the industries involved create in the first place.
To this end the likes of Sony, Fujitsu and Nokia are taking measures including sourcing their energy where possible from renewable sources, reducing the consumption of energy by their respective factories and making their products easier to recycle.
There’s still a long way to go before electronics manufacturers and tech firms eradicate the problem of e-waste and will no doubt need corralling into acting faster by public and governmental pressure.