E-waste is swiftly becoming one of the most prominent environmental concerns for the world. As our consumption of technology increases, every year more and more e-waste is generated, releasing toxic waste into the environment and reducing our finite resources.
In this guide, learn more about what e-waste is, why e-waste recycling is important in modern society and how individuals and businesses alike can properly recycle e-waste to avoid harming the environment, and help slow climate change.
What is e-waste?
E-waste, also known as waste electrical or electronic equipment (WEEE), is defined as any electronic appliance that has a plug, cord or battery and has reached the end of its usable life. This also includes all parts within the e-waste, such as the battery in a mobile phone.
Common examples of e-waste
There are many different types of electronic waste equipment. E-waste falls into one of six categories depending on its lifespan and the potential environmental impact from incorrect disposal. Here are the six e-waste categories:
- Temperature exchange equipment: cooling and freezing equipment such as fridges, freezers and air conditioners.
- Screens: inclusive of e-waste that has a monitor, such as televisions, laptops and tablets.
- Lamps: inclusive of any lamp appliances, including fluorescent lamps, high intensity discharge lamps, and LED lamps.
- Large equipment: washing machines, electric stoves, copying equipment, clothes dryers and more.
- Small equipment: microwaves, electric kettles, radio sets, vacuum cleaners, electronic toys and much more.
- Small IT equipment: even smaller equipment such as mobile phones, calculators, routers, GPS and more.
To learn more about the exact specifications of the six types of e-waste, visit the Global E-waste Monitor’s guide.
Why is it important that e-waste is recycled?
There are two main reasons as to why it’s important for everyone to recycle e-waste. Firstly, most electronic waste contains toxic chemicals that can damage the environment when disposed of incorrectly. Secondly, most e-waste contains precious non-renewable resources that could be incredibly valuable when recycled and reused.
For example, your mobile phone may contain resources and metals such as copper, lithium, tungsten, manganese and a variety of other materials. Most sources of these materials are finite, and by not recycling e-waste, we’re losing these resources and causing supply chain issues for the world in the future.
Although the materials in mobile phones aren’t toxic, other e-waste such as fluorescent light bulbs and electronic switches contain hazardous chemicals such as mercury, nickel, lead and more. When these contaminants are improperly disposed of, they’re highly likely to cause environmental damage and pose huge health risks, especially for children and mothers in developing countries.
Facts about our e-waste problem
E-waste is a huge problem, but it seems relatively small as we often don’t see, or hear about, the impact of our electronic waste on humans and the environment. Here are just a few e-waste facts that can help put the issue into perspective.
- 53.6 million metric tonnes of e-waste were generated in 2019, and it weighed as much as 350 cruise ships placed end to end to form a line 125 km long.
- Globally, society only deals with 20% of e-waste appropriately. According to the World Economic Forum, the majority of e-waste ends up in landfill, or is disposed of by informal workers in poor conditions.
- It’s estimated that e-waste is worth $62.5 billion annually, which, if it was its own nation, would have a GDP on par with that of Kenya. On top of that, 123 countries have a GDP greater than the world's e-waste combined.
- It is estimated that by 2030, the amount of e-waste generated will exceed 74Mt (metric tonnes). In 2019, only 9.3Mt was formally documented as collected and recycled, meaning only 17.4% of e-waste was recycled compared to generated.
- This 17.4% of recycled e-waste was estimated to have prevented as much as 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents being released into the environment, so we can only imagine how much the un-recycled e-waste released.
These facts are just a small window into the mass production, and harmful impact of e-waste on our world. As both a valuable resource, and a toxic one, how we consider our e-waste recycling is crucial for a sustainable future and circular economy.
Reasons why businesses need to recycle e-waste
Environmental and humanitarian concerns should be at the forefront of your list when it comes to e-waste recycling. However, there are a few other key reasons that a business should recycle their electronic waste properly, for both business security and compliance.
Protect your confidential data
Every business uses technology that retains lots of sensitive information, such as employee payroll details and client contact information. Secure destruction of the e-waste that contains this information is essential to avoid the risk of a data breach.
It’s common for businesses to think that by simply wiping the harddrive or deleting its data, that there’s no trace of the confidential information on their electronics. However it’s still easy for those who want to steal your data to do this through wrongly recycled e-waste, therefore it’s best to recycle through a secure WEEE service such as Shredall SDS Group.
Ensures compliance with UK regulations
Across the UK and Europe, it's the law that WEEE waste is regulated to reduce the amount that is incinerated or sent to landfill sites. For businesses, this means that you have to abide by the regulations to ensure your business is compliant, especially if you are a producer of electronic equipment. To find out more, please visit gov.uk’s guidelines.
By recycling e-waste effectively and by regulation, you’ll show your clients, customers and associates that you’re a reputable company. Showing that your business is committed to environmental responsibility can help build good relationships and demonstrate trustworthiness, especially as the issues of e-waste and climate change are at the forefront of our minds.
How to recycle e-waste properly
Before you decide to dispose or recycle your e-waste, decide if the item is really at the end of it’s lifespan and can’t serve a purpose for you, or another, any longer. If this is the case, the best way to recycle e-waste properly is at a dedicated e-waste facility, or via a dedicated WEEE recycling service.
If your business is in need of e-waste recycling services, get in touch with the team at Shredall SDS Group. We’re one of the few WEEE recycling companies that has a target to recycle 100% of non-contaminated waste. We’ll ensure your data is completely destroyed, and the shredded e-waste is recycled properly with our WEEE-approved e-waste partner, reducing your businesses overall environmental impact.