The widening e-waste issue and the environmental impact of Apple’s policies

We live in an age of rampant consumerism. With technology moving at a rapid pace, no one wants to get ‘left behind’. Plus, having the latest and greatest gives people a sense of self-worth.

But what happens to unwanted devices? They end up in landfill sites to become someone else’s problem. This doesn’t just release harmful gases into the atmosphere but also affects water sources and habitats.

Notably, most of the e-waste sent to landfill is functional or can be recycled. Furthermore, increasing electronic recycling rates doesn’t just help the environment, but could also open up a lot of employment opportunities.

The e-waste problem

According to a 2004 UN study, it takes at least 240kg of fossil fuels, 22kg of chemicals and 1,500kg of water to manufacture one computer and monitor. And what happens when that computer reaches the end of its life? Fuel is burned to transport it to a landfill site.

Waste electronic devices contain gold, copper and logic boards, which could be used to create other gadgets. So, in brief, we are disposing of valuable resources.

The growth of buy-and-sell platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and eBay has encouraged more recycling of electronic products. However, this assumes that there is a demand. For instance, a second-hand iPhone is likely to sell much more quickly than a phone from a ‘no-name’ brand. Judging by the 50m tonnes of e-waste produced each year, there is still a lot of work to be done.

Companies such as Plunc have also tried to tackle the e-waste problem by buying second-hand items and then refurbishing them to resell at a profit. However, this only tackles a part of the broader issue as some electronic devices aren’t profitable for small businesses to refurbish and resell.

Sweden sets an example

For any e-waste recycling system to work, you need the following elements: good infrastructure for efficient recycling; legislation to motivate stakeholders to dispose of their electronic goods properly; and a high-tech tracking system to gather data and find areas of improvement.

We can learn a lot from Sweden, which had an e-waste recycling rate of 55.4pc as of 2016. This is due to enacting legislation that holds companies accountable for proper disposal of their e-waste.

Moreover, the Swedish government invested in infrastructure to recycle as many electronic devices as possible. It also invests in campaigns to educate inhabitants about the importance of recycling. This has created a robust e-waste recycling culture among the population.

Most importantly, the Swedish government has set up a unique tracking system to improve year on year and increase accountability.

Apple’s efforts to tackle e-waste

Apple is one of the world’s most valuable brands. Aside from leading the way in the tech world, Apple influences culture. At first glance, its forays into recycling and reducing emissions generated by its activities seemed to be marketing talk. However, as per its latest Environmental Responsibility Report, Apple and a number of its suppliers will jointly invest a nine-figure …read more

Source:: Silicon Republic


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