Millions of tons of electronic waste are generated each year around the world. At the head of this particular ranking is Asia, but large amounts of this waste are also generated in the Western world, for example, in the United States and Europe.
The reasons for the generation of electronic waste, or e-waste, as it is known in English, are very simple. Every year, the number of electronic devices for home or professional use grows exponentially. It will do so at a faster rate when the IoT becomes more widespread and even more so when we are in the age of autonomous cars.
All these devices have a certain useful life that, in many cases, is artificially shortened when a new generation is launched on the market. Many consumers change devices in the short term, replacing the “old” with a better, more up-to-date one.
These discarded devices, and their components, can be recycled to a greater or lesser extent. In fact, the recycling of electronic components is practically mandatory to contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly world, and it is one of the star reasons why to choose, or not, a provider of dismantling services of centers of data, as we saw.
The problem is that the recycling ratio compared to the manufacture of new devices is really low: it is estimated that only 15.5% of electronic components and devices are recycled worldwide. However, it is imperative that companies increasingly recycle more and better electronic components and devices, for the good of the planet. Some more information:
Only 20% of the electronic waste generated in the world is documented and is ready to be collected and recycled.
Only 41 countries have official e-waste statistics. It is a plausible explanation for the low collection rate we mentioned, compared to the total amount of e-waste generated.
Why is it important to recycle electronic waste?
In November 2017, the United Nations and all its member states signed an ambitious “Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030”, which defined 17 goals and 169 objectives to eradicate poverty and protect the planet. The increase in electronic waste and its incorrect treatment are important challenges that prevent or slow down reaching these goals.
In particular, better understanding and managing e-waste means improving targets such as “Good Health and Well-being”, “Clean Water and Sanitation”, “Sustainable Cities and Communities”, “Responsible Consumption and Production”, “Life Under Water” and “Work and economic growth”.
Electronic waste, when improperly handled, poses serious health problems as it contains hazardous components. In addition, they pollute the air, water, and land, and put people’s health at risk. Recycling processes that do not use adequate resources, facilities and trained people pose additional threats to the planet and to all of us.
What types of electronic waste are generated?
So far we have not given a concrete definition of electronic waste. It is about more than the electronic components that we can find in technology companies and, in fact, this type of garbage is made up of almost more devices for daily use than circuitry.
Electronic waste or e-waste refers to all items of electrical and electronic equipment and parts, which have been discarded by their owner as waste without the intention of reuse.
Electronic waste is known as “Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment ” (WEEE), and includes a wide range of products: almost any household or commercial item with electrical circuits or components that need a power supply to function (with or without battery ).
The definition of electronic waste is very broad, but we can identify six categories of waste:
- Cooling and freezing equipment, such as refrigerators, freezers, air conditioning systems, heat pumps …
- Screens, monitors, laptops, and tablets.
- Lamps: fluorescent lamps, high-intensity discharge lamps, and LED lamps.
- Great equipment, including washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, electric stoves, large printing machines, copying equipment, and photovoltaic panels, among others.
- Small equipment, for example, vacuum cleaners, microwaves, ventilation equipment, toasters, electric kettles, electric shavers, scales, calculators, radio equipment, video cameras, electrical and electronic toys, small electrical and electronic tools, small medical devices, small monitoring and control instruments.
- Small computer and telecommunications equipment, such as mobile phones, GPS systems, routers, personal computers, printers …
Each product within each of these categories has a certain useful life, which means that each product has a certain environmental and economic impact, in addition to involving different volumes of waste.
For this reason, the collection processes, logistics, e-waste disposal, and recycling technology are different for each category, since they require different processes for the adequate treatment of each type of waste.