My first edition iPad (with wifi!) is now almost four years old. Purchased in late 2011 for the same price as two new tablets. It still works well if a bit slow to change screen directions these days. My mobile phone is two years old, ancient by today’s standards, but still does all the “smart” things I need it to. It seems that owning “ancient” devices makes me a green tech user by default.
Old is the new green apparently!
All of the upgrading to new technologies that we do to stay current has created the fastest growing waste stream in the world according to the U.S EPA. (United States Environmental Protection Agency) The average person only uses their mobile phone for eighteen months and a shocking 400 million phones are discarded per year. That is a lot of discarded tech and a lot of landfill. Imagine upgrading to a new fridge or stove every eighteen months.
The volume of electronic waste generated worldwide is expected to climb 33 percent by 2017 to 65 million tons, according to a study conducted by a partnership of United Nations organizations, industry, governments and scientists. Therefore the longer we can use our technologies the better off we are.
Oh, we recycle what we don’t need you may think. In fact only 25 % of e-waste gets recycled and most of that is then e-dumped off shore to third world countries. According to an article in The Guardian by Toby Miler: “The International Labour Organization reports that 80% of e-waste ends up being shipped (often illegally) to developing countries to be recycled by hundreds of thousands of informal workers, with adverse environmental and health implications”
Most workplaces have recycling of some kind set up, some may even have composting options as well. Others may also have gardens, bike to work incentives, use green cleaners, all in an attempt to reduce their carbon footprint to a size eight from ten. But what of your e-waste? How often have you upgraded your tech and where did the old systems go? To the landfill? To a re-use program? To get recycled?
A few non-profits are trying to make changes to the e-waste problem by creating awareness, offering solutions and resources to consumers. The Electronic Takeback Coalition supports corporate accountability, responsible recycling, green design, and offer consumers advocacy tools, (i.e. know before you buy). They publish a report each year so you can research which products last the longest and which are more likely to fail. (Apparently they study this!)
“I Fix It” supports what they call the “repair revolution” and you can find instructions there on how to repair almost any device. They offer alarming stats on the lack of sustainability of our disposable tech lifestyles and make a good case for why we should invest into a repair culture instead. Reduce, repair, reuse, recycle, and re-think your upgrade is all advice from their website. There are many organizations that accept used technology for charity.
Can you imagine an e-repair shop on every corner or in every mall? Imagine when you go to get a new phone, that they upgrade your chip, or repair your screen instead of issuing you a new one and you keep the old phone? The one you know and love? You’d feel positively green.
A resource on what you can and cannot recycle is covered here:
Further resources on end of life e-waste centers