All the E-waste Statistics You Should Know and 5 Recycling Tips
It seems as if electronics are made to be thrown out or upgraded every year. Smartphones seem to die the next day after their contract is over, while televisions become obsolete the second a thinner and larger version launches on the market. Planned obsolescence is not a new concept, but keeping up to date with the latest electronics affects more than just your household budget. It also comes with a pretty hefty environmental cost. Getting your e-waste statistics right may help you make some changes.
The most surprising is the fact that we (literally) throw billions of dollars into landfills each year just because we dispose of electronics carelessly. And this does not apply to the U.S. only; countries around the world are throwing away money every day because the population is not educated about the benefits of e-waste recycling.
What is E-waste?
You may be wondering what is considered e-waste. It’s more than just ancient cell phones – e-waste refers to any electronic waste that is either obsolete or no longer wanted by users. It doesn’t matter if it still works or not. As soon as they are no longer wanted, televisions, DVD players, old VCRs, copiers, stereos, tablets, fax machines, computers, laptops, and other electronic devices all become e-waste.
High-tech has somewhat of a clean image – all sleek iPhones and liquid crystal displays. However, many of the components of mobile phones, computers and TVs pollute the environment if we dispose of them incorrectly. When they end up leaking in water sources, they can also become dangerous to human health.
The so-called e-waste is the fastest growing part of the solid waste stream. We throw out around 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste annually. The lack of ease and fees to recycle e-waste has turned the electronic waste recycling into an uphill battle. The following e-waste statistics may spur action that will protect the environment while also stopping the waste of resources.
- The United States is No. 1 worldwide in terms of e-waste produced annually. Americans throw around 9.4 million tons of electronics every year.
- According to the EPA, recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used to power 3,657 U.S. homes in a year.
- For every 1 million cell phones that are recycled, around 35,200 lbs of copper, 770 lbs of silver, 75 lbs of gold, and 30 lbs of palladium can be recovered. Palladium is a precious metal used in making electrical contacts, surgical instruments, and parts for watches.
- EPA states only 12.5 percent of e-waste ends up being recycled. At the same time, e-waste disposal rates reveal Americans throw out phones containing over $60 million in gold and/or silver annually.
- One ton of circuit boards contains an estimated 40-800 times more gold than one metric ton of ore. Surprisingly, there is 30-40 times more copper in a ton of circuit boards that in a metric ton of ore.
Toxic E-waste Disposal
- Improper disposal of old television sets and CRT monitors leads to toxic substances (such as lead) leaching into the soil.
- In 2014, around 41.8 million metric tons of e-waste was shipped to developing countries, creating a dumping problem in those countries. The United States uses Guiyu, China as a major dumping ground for e-waste. After the e-waste is transported to China, the electronics end up in the streets, where they poison the locals.
- Not all e-waste recyclers are the same. Some recycle e-waste in a safe way, while others simply export the waste to developing countries. Recycle your e-waste with a company that has been vetted through e-stewards.org.
- Around 40 percent of the heavy metals in U.S. landfills come from old and discarded electronics. If the recycling rates for gold (15%), silver (15%) and platinum (5%) increased to 100%, it would enable the electronics sector to realize $12 billion in natural capital and financial benefits.
- At the moment, we dispose of about 350,000 mobile phones each day, according to EPA figures. That equates to over 152 million phones ending up in landfills each year. The UN University projects a 33 percent increase in global e-waste volumes between 2013 and 2017.
As we see from these e-waste statistics, recycling electronic devices isn’t always easy and convenient. Even though local governments have e-waste collection days each year, that’s not enough. Instead of having to store them at home until the next collection day, you could drop them off at several electronic stores.
Best Buy, for instance, is one of the largest e-waste recyclers. They can collect your unwanted electronics TV and computer monitors for free. Meanwhile, here are some other ways to make sure you reduce your household’s e-waste.
Tips on How to Reduce E-waste
- Fight Planned Obsolescence. You don’t really need the super-new-newest iPad, so stop the habit of early adopting. The U.S. Geological Survey reported that over 1 billion cell phones were sold worldwide in 2009 – and less than 1 percent of those are recycled! Make strategic purchases and avoid impulse buys. Research your electronics and the use them until they’re truly no longer useful.
- Donate. If you simply can’t live without that new flat-screen TV with 3D capabilities, don’t just throw your old screen away. Remember there are plenty of people out there who would love your old one. EPA can help you find a good charity to donate to.
- Pay It Forward. If the computer or TV you want to replace is still in good working condition, why not hand it down to a family member or a friend? This way, you reduce e-waste in landfills and you also encourage your loved ones to take responsibility for their e-waste. Lead by example.
- Mark Your Calendar. Circle a date in your family calendar – even twice a year, if it’s necessary – call it “Collection Day” and make it a tradition. Round up and dispose of all your household e-waste together. If you are not sure what your nearest collection site is, techcollect.com.au can help you find out.
- Recycle Properly. Tossing your cell phone into the recycling bin is not going to ensure its recycling. Most cities have their own eWaste recycling centers; check if they are legit before taking your electronics to their center. Your local government’s website should contain a list of accredited eWaste recyclers.