What can you do about E-Waste?
With over fifty million metric tons thrown away globally every year, e-waste poses a serious environmental problem, one that affects the entire world. With the issue of e-waste being so widespread, no one person or organization is going to be able to address it alone. Instead, it’s going to take lots of people, from business leaders to policy makers to everyday citizens to address this growing environmental issue. So in order to do your part, here are a bunch of ways to manage your own e-waste and to encourage others to do the same.
The most obvious thing someone can do to manage their e-waste is to just throw out less electronic items. That means avoiding disposable electronics or electronics that are made to break down quickly. As well, you can have your broken or old electronics repaired. Companies like Apple and Best Buy offer repair programs for the products they sell, although these programs can sometimes be expensive, so do your research. There’s also independent repair shops that fix electronics and even Do-It-Yourself repair websites, like IFIXIT, for those with the technical know-how. Ultimately, there are lots of ways to cut down on the amount of electronics you’re throwing away.
Reuse and Recycle
Reusing and recycling electronics are other good ways to deal with e-waste. Lots of major electronics companies and retailers, like Dell and Best Buy, have programs to recycle their products. Other third-party companies and non-profit organization also recycle or even refurbish old electronics so they can be used again, like the Electronic Recycling Association. Finally, there are many places, like FIND or Value Village, where you can donate used electronics that still work so that someone else can use them.
Disposing of your own e-waste properly
When a piece of hardware is beyond repair and has to be thrown away, it’s vital that it’s disposed of properly. That means bringing broken electronics to people who can properly dispose of them; either the manufacturer, retailer or an independent company or organization. The Eco-Station program in Edmonton is a good example of one of these. Run by the City, the Eco-Stations has four locations around Edmonton where anyone can bring in their waste, both electronic and otherwise, to have it recycled or disposed of properly. For no charge, the Eco-Stations will dispose of all of your electronics, from cell phones to vacuum cleaners. Ultimately, disposing of your e-waste properly, by bringing it to an Eco-Station for example, means it’s less likely to pollute the environment or to end up in one of the many informal e-waste recycling sites in the developing world.
While there is lots we as individuals can do to address the e-waste problem, we also can make a difference by encouraging others to do better. That means not only telling our friends and family about the issue but encouraging the very companies making all of this e-waste to address the issue as well. We, as consumers, can support companies that are serious about e-waste; ones that either have recycling or repair programs for their products and/or make products that don’t break down quickly. This strategy of “voting with your dollar” shows electronics manufacturers that managing and minimizing e-waste is something that we as consumers care about. Finally, we can sign petitions and call and encourage our representatives to address the e-waste issue through policy, if it hasn’t been already.
As this article shows, there are a lot of different ways to fight this growing environmental problem. E-waste may not be an easy problem to address but it can be done. It’s just going to take everyone, including you and I, to step up and get serious about e-waste.
[Cover photo provided by The City of Edmonton].