You may have heard of the term ‘e-waste’ before, but you may be unsure of what it means and how it applies to you. E-waste is simply any waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), from laptops and televisions to refrigerators and smartphones. And, it is something that everyone needs to be concerned about, no matter where in the world you live. In fact, we all need to be more than just concerned about it because according to Coara Commercial Asset Recyclers in London we are all bound by EU regulations to responsibly recycle our e-waste according to the WEEE Regulations.
The problem with electronic waste is that it is extremely damaging to the environment as well as those that live in the surrounding areas, as it can pose serious health risks. However, this is a problem that seems to be getting bigger and bigger. In 2014, e-waste reached an all-time high, and the issue doesn’t seem to have got much better since then. If you think about how easily we discard phones when we get a newer model and such like, you can see where this waste comes from, but the truth is that we need to be educated on how to get rid of these gadgets as well as larger household appliances in the correct manner. Most people do not realise that they are doing anything wrong.
The worst offenders for e-waste are China and the United States. They contributed the most e-waste last year. A United Nations study concluded that out of all e-waste, less than a sixth ends up recycled, which is a worrying statistic. This means that there were more than 41 million tonnes of e-waste that was dumped last year, and less than seven million tonnes were taken for recycling.
A recent report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) shows that this waste is continuing to pose a serious threat to the environment and human health, with a lot of this waste being dumped in developing countries. In Ghana, young people are burning old refrigerator foam and rubber tires in order to glean copper and other metals from the dumped defunct electric devices. This is happening in the country’s capital, Accra, excessively, and the people there are drastically reducing their life expectancy. However, Accra is not alone in this problem, as similar scenarios are occurring all over Asia and Africa. Achim Steiner, the director of the UNEAP, said that we are seeing unprecedented quantities of electronic waste rolling out over the globe.
So, where does the UK fall in terms of e-waste? In 2014, we contributed 1.5 million tonnes of e-waste to the global amount of 41.8 million. This represents 23.5 kg of e-waste per capita. While we may not contribute as much e-waste as the USA, regarding e-waste per capita the problem is worse in the UK than it is in the US and China as well as other big offenders, such as Germany and Japan. This showcases the extreme need for action to be taken, and this often starts with education, as most people are not aware of the correct methods to dispose of their electronic items.
To conclude, the problem of e-waste is an enormous one, and it is one that is causing significant damage to the planet and huge health worries to individuals in developing nations. It is time to start making a difference today.