Electronic Waste, A Brighter Future
With the worldwide use of consumer electronics on the rise, the amount of waste generated as these products fail and break down over time is only going to increase. By the end of this year globally mankind will have generated an estimated 50 million tons of e-waste and will be set to increase that 5% on the year for the foreseeable future.
But it's not all doom and gloom.
A lot of companies and individuals around the world have found that there is value to be found in e-waste. A lot of the circuit boards and componentry that make up most modern consumer electronics contain precious metals like gold, aluminum, copper, and palladium which can be smelted down and used again from the waste.
In some cases, this is can be more economical and less damaging for the environment than mining these metals from the ground. For example, for a typical gold mine will yield around 1 to 4g of gold per tonne of rock mined. With the right kind of printed circuit board, you can be getting 900g of gold per tonne.
So less digging up the ground and more reusing what we already have.
There is also a growing community of people around the world who are repairing and then on selling old, used retro electronics.
Things like old gaming computers and consoles, old audio and hi-fi equipment, power tools, etc. The ultimate form of lowering waster emissions is recycling! For every product that can be repaired and reused, there is correspondingly something that doesn't need to be manufactured.
Check it out for yourself!
Due to a lack of action from the government in New Zealand and around the world, most of the recycling of e-waste is being done by private businesses who are supplying the market with reconditioned electronics and who specialize in the dismantling of old products for recycling.
A lot of these companies are providing affordable reconditioned electronics to schools in low decile communities and start-up businesses as a reliable and sustainable alternative to more expensive chain stores that will often attempt to push more expensive products on people that aren't fit for purpose!
Last year we (Computer Recycling Ltd) recycled 1200 tonnes of E-Waste in New Zealand. It’s not much more than a drop in the global bucket for now but we are getting there!