What happens to our computers, ovens, refrigerators, and cellphones after we have no use for them?
Estimates indicate that almost 40 million tonnes of electronic waste is generated every year – with computers, cell phones, and television sets making up a significant portion of that number. Unless you’re taking your e-waste to a Mississauga electronics recycling facility, the improper recycling of electronic waste takes a troubling toll on our environment. Increased risk of pollution due to volatile chemical compounds found in electronic waste also serves to put local populations and wildlife at risk.
To combat this, actively making the decision to bring your e-waste to a Mississauga electronics recycling plant is a small step forward in dealing with this global issue.
Unfortunately, the amount of electronic waste produced is increasing rapidly. This is due to quickened development at the production chain level paired with the consumer demand posed by the global population – resulting in a growing number of defective and obsolete electronic equipment. A lateral consequence of this demand is the average life cycles of electronic goods are quickly becoming shorter and shorter due to technological advancement, attractive consumer designs, advertising and marketing initiatives, and issues with compatibility.
The main contributors to electronic waste are industrialized countries, with the grand majority of e-waste coming from North America, Europe, and China.
Considerations regarding the disposal of electronic waste are troublesome – so much so that countries around the world have made the decision to implement relevant policies on how to best recycle the growing amount of electronic waste we make.
Canada and the U.S. are the world’s largest contributors to electronic waste – however, policy implementation has failed to materialize at the national level. Instead, states and provinces have implemented Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) policies to enforce either better recycling practices or reverse logistics when it comes to properly recycling electronic equipment. In Ontario for example, you can head to your local Mississauga electronics recycling facility to properly recycle your electronic equipment.
The most substantial policy adopted by Europe was enacted by the European Union, and is known as the Restriction of Certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS). RoHS bans the manufacture and sale of consumer electronic goods that contain harmful metals (i.e. lead, cadmium, mercury, etc.). RoHS is substantial as countries that have trade relations with the EU are obligated to produce electronic goods without such harmful metal substances.
Many countries in Asia are experiencing rapid industrial and economic growth – subsequently leading to an increase in e-waste. China alone doubled its amount of generated e-waste from 2010 to 2015, to 6.7 million tonnes – an increase of over 100%. Many countries in both East and South Asia also receive e-waste from other countries, but do not have the necessary infrastructure to lead an environmentally sound e-waste management system.
In 2001, Japan introduced the Home Appliance Recycling Law (HARL) which was a three tenet system that seeks to increase recyclability, encouraging recyclability, and prohibition of inappropriate deposits. In 2007, China implemented legislation to control e-waste pollution by restricting the use of hazardous substances in the manufacturing process.
African countries tend to receive the most second-hand equipment, more so than any other continent. When equipment is shipped to African countries, they are not pre-tested for functionality, resulting in an increased amount of recycled e-waste inhabiting African landfills.
The only real piece of formal legislation that effectively deals with e-waste in African countries is known as the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal – informally known as the Basel Convention. The Convention is an international treaty that minimizes the movement of hazardous waste between countries, with specifically protects developing countries from receiving hazardous waste from developed nations. The Convention also holds that hazardous waste must be disposed of in the country of which the waste originated from.
As South American countries industrialize, consumer demand for electronic waste is increased – with increased generation of electronic equipment as a result. Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Columbia have seen growth in WEEE recycling market, with small scale recycling facilities popping up to process e-waste at a modest level. Brazil has been at the forefront of South American e-waste recycling initiatives, having enacted the National Policy on Solid Waste in 2010. The policy dictates that manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers (all levels of the electronic products chain) must cultivate a reverse logistics structure by collecting e-waste after use by the consumer.