Remember when things were made to last? I suppose some countries still exercise producing high quality products (ahem Germany), but certainly the masses produce single-use items, and items that do not stand the test of time – only trend.
Then, of course, is clever marketing. Marketing to make you think you need every upgrade, every new gadget, and every new thing to replace the old thing because it is now “outdated”. Phones, computers, and our mass of other digital technology is bad for our environment, and bad for us (because you cannot separate the two).
“It’s not just laziness or a lust for the future, either; the economics of gadgets encourages disposal. In some cases, for example, buying a new printer is cheaper than buying a set of new ink cartridges,” (The Atlantic, 2016).
Every year we discard millions of tonnes of electronic waste, and before we could ship it to China because they accepted 70% of the world’s electronic waste; and some more horrendous facts. But not anymore. So how long until we really can’t stick to “out of sight, out of mind”?
Even in one household alone, e-waste adds up. I have one old flip-phone in my desk drawer, and an old Blackberry. I was able to reuse a friend’s old iPhone, which I still have. Another family member of mine, their office looks quite different: five DVD players, towers of old computer towers, keyboards, mouses (do we also call them electronic mice?), old Nokia phones, and no one to claim them. Seeing images of electronic waste in landfills truly makes me want to vomit.
So, what can we do? It is not enough to recycle our electronics, that will not fix our problem. Also, only certain bits of our electronics can be recycled anyway.
We can stop believing all the marketing. That’s probably the biggest thing. Change your mindset, and realize you do not need every single upgrade to all the things. You don’t even need all the things! This might be hard to do because of how long we have been conditioned, and now we expect a certain lifestyle with certain material things. But, as I always say, if you remember your values, it will make change a lot easier.
Try the following:
- choose rechargeable/refillable items, like batteries
- use screen protectors and cases to protect your items (and generally, treat them carefully)
- choose refurbished items, or buy second-hand
- visit a repair cafe
- contact companies if they have a repair option, or inquire about recycling options (it should be the producer’s responsibility, not ours)
- donate or sell the items
- find recycling services, like EPR programs. For some options to recycle electronics in the RDEK, see this infographic.
- refuse to purchase
If you see me sending out a smoke signal – it’s time for dinner.
Renee Cho: What can we do about about the growing E-Waste problem?
Nicole Mortillaro: Electronic waste is piling up. Here’s why you should care.