As 5G wireless technology becomes increasingly available, more and more consumers will be upgrading their devices so they can take full advantage of the high-speed connectivity. That means out with old devices, and in with the brand new, 5G-ready ones! With this type of massive upgrading in the works, a sound and effective electronics recycling program is needed now more than ever.
But why so much pressure to upgrade? The bottom line of consumer electronics manufacturers depends on it. It’s not even that consumers want to upgrade, necessarily. They have to upgrade. Predictably, after only a few years of use, electronic devices begin to exhibit glitches, intermittent failures, and compatibility issues with accessories.
For example, the batteries in smartphones can’t be replaced once they no longer hold a charge. Older cables won’t work with newer devices. Even if you could get by on your old equipment, eventually the manufacturers stop supporting them and will no longer offer software updates. The initial gentle nudge to upgrade turns into a cold shoulder until you do!
So, like it or not, off you go to get your upgrade. Round and round we go. Will the upgrading ever stop? Absolutely not. And all of it adds up to a staggering amount of e-waste, nationally and globally.
E-waste in the USA
These days, Americans own 24 different electronic products per household. Sales of electronic devices are over $206 billion annually. Nearly 75% of all old electronics in the United States are incinerated or end up in landfills. These devices contain hazardous materials that pollute the air, soil, and groundwater, putting food supply systems at risk. This poses a danger to the global environment and all human health.
Only 25 states have electronics recycling laws that ban throwing electronic devices in the trash. Other states do not enforce the proper disposal of electronic devices. Therefore, most of the e-waste from consumers in non-regulated states end up in landfills.
Gold and silver are used in the manufacturing of electronic devices because they are excellent conductors of electricity. Every year, Americans throw away mobile phones containing $60 million worth of gold and silver. When the devices are no longer useful, they are buried in landfills, right along with the treasures they contain.
The Global E-waste Problem
Globally, e-waste accumulation has more than doubled over the past nine years. In 2016, the United Nations University (UNU) reported that the yearly e-waste accumulation reached 49 million tons. By 2021, the annual total is anticipated to be higher than 57 million tons.
According to the UNC, annually, there is a tsunami of e-waste accumulated globally. To put things in perspective, the amount of e-waste has become more than the weight of all the commercial airliners ever built. Add to that, only 20% of old electronic devices are properly recycled worldwide.
Electronics Recycling Offers Far-Reaching Benefits
Consumer electronics manufacturers keep developing newer, faster, more technologically advanced devices, with no end in sight. Internationally, efforts are in place to address the explosive growth in global e-waste. Government leaders and policymakers are actively working together to establish recycling standards. Providing and enforcing legislation will go a long way toward making the planet greener.
However, each person can do their part to protect the environment on their own. Make a concerted effort to recycle all of your old electronic devices. Devices such as computers, laptops, fax machines, printers and copiers, networking devices, servers, laptops, and cell phones can all be recycled. Doing so keeps them out of landfills.
Electronics recycling also provides opportunities to refurbish and repurpose old electronic devices so they can be donated. There is a growing need for these devices in developing nations. Older equipment can still play a vital role in helping people get access to computers, laptops, cell phones, and the internet. Entire communities would have access to better technology, which could drastically improve their lives.