The proliferation of tech waste continues to pose a dilemma not only for the waste and recycling industry, but for governments and environmentalists who are looking to scale sustainable solutions.
Tech waste grew to 50 million tonnes in 2019 at a value of $57 billion. While e-waste has increased in the past decade, efforts to recycle have not matched pace. According to the EPA, only 12.5% of electronic waste is properly recycled.
Emily Lake, public education officer at Cheshire, England's Chester Zoo, explained the potential consequences of e-waste to wildlife, saying that "accumulating technological waste, consisting of mobile phones, tablets, computers, TVs and recording devices, has the potential to cause wide environmental damage."
She continued, "Very rare and precious commodities inside devices - such as coltan, a metal that can be found in almost all smart devices to stop them from overheating - are largely supplied from countries in Africa, where mines to extract these resources ravage habitat for highly threatened chimpanzees and other forest wildlife. Not only do chimpanzees lose their primary forest habitat but they are also at risk from hunting by humans if they are seen to be disrupting the mining process."
Because there are numerous companies that can extract rare metals for repurposing in other devices, recycling is a "simple," necessary solution.
“The accessibility of these companies and financial incentives they offer to device recyclers means it’s easier than ever to be helping some of the rarest species on Earth, when you next consider upgrading your tech," Lake said.
An infographic from RS Components demonstrates through data the growth and impact of tech e-waste as consumers and companies alike devour the newest technologies available.