With today’s world of work having changed irreversibly since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, most of us now work in the cloud or remotely in home offices. But even working in the cloud in a paperless environment generates e-waste as new digital devices such as mobile phones, reading devices and laptops are constantly being discarded and re-purchased.

The UK and the world generates an enormous amount of e-waste, many of which contain toxic substances. However, there are many components that make up these products which can be recycled safely and efficiently. More and more local authorities are being tasked with setting up policies and accessible recycling centres to deal with this problem.

What Is e-waste?

Electrical or digital waste can be anything from discarded mobile phones, Kindles, tablets, MP3 players, desktop or laptop computers. The cabling and electrical plugs which accompanies these devices are also considered as e-waste. Common household items such as televisions, microwaves, fridges, air conditioners and cooking appliances are also included.

When these discarded items are dumped in landfills, toxic chemicals which we now know are harmful, such as mercury and lead, leach into these dump sites and can contaminate ground water sources and aquifers.

But it is still relatively costly and slow to recycle the non-toxic precious metals that make up e-waste with many first world nations resorting to exporting the problem to countries which don’t have strict environmental laws protecting the people working in metal and mineral extraction.

Don’t Bin It

Fortunately for us individual consumers, there are ways one can contribute to dealing with this problem. These may include “softer” options such as delaying upgrades, repairing or re-using devices or even passing them onto those in need. Taking active steps to find out where your nearest e-waste recycling centre is an obvious first step.

Firstly, search around on the internet for your nearest recycling centre. Most of the larger cities and towns will have such initiatives. Secondly, keep oneself informed of which Tech companies are currently using more recycled components in their devices, Apple and Google have been cited as such companies. Thirdly, look for retailers who have “take-back programmes” or responsible stewardship policies in which consumers can return their discarded devices to the retailers, who take responsibility for recycling returned e-waste.

With the pandemic-induced economic downturn of the last two years, many recycling initiatives cut back on services and the ravages of Covid-19 resulted in a serious shortage of solid waste collection truck drivers in North America. These kinds of system failures make the small efforts that we all can make, by taking steps to recycle our e-waste, that much more important.

Recycling is ever evolving with new and innovative technologies coming on line constantly. Micro solutions and decisions made by small business and home offices every day could all play their part in dealing with the growing mountain of e-waste we produce.