At a rate three times faster than general waste, E-waste is Australia’s fastest growing waste stream. The average Australian household generates approximately 73 kg of e-waste each year, and it is expected that Australia will produce 700,000 of the 50 million tonnes of e-waste that the world will generate this year alone.
With the country so consumed in technology and electronics, it isn’t hard to see why Australia is facing such a major crisis. The more businesses feed us technology, the more we consume it. However, the crisis isn’t necessarily the businesses nor the consumer’s fault. Our society relies on technology – that’s just the way it is.
What isn’t going to change is the fact that we use technology for just about everything these days. What can change is how much we use and how we get rid of it.
Like most waste management solutions, it shouldn’t be surprising that e-waste can be reduced with a simple and well-known slogan – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
There’s a reason ‘reduce’ comes before ‘reuse’ and ‘recycle.’ At the heart of the e-waste issue is over-consumption. Reducing the number of electronics we use, will ultimately reduce the amount of e-waste we produce.
Our over-consumption stems from both company’s and consumer’s obsession with technology. Companies are frequently creating newer products. In their environmental responsibility report, Apple reported that 77% of the carbon footprint of their electronics comes from their manufacture and only 17% of the actual use of their electronics.
Additionally, consumers are obsessed with having the latest products straight away. According to Natalie Khoury, an Australian mother whose family appeared in ABC’s programme War on Waste, “We’re a very spoiled generation, which upgrades way too easily.”
Whether it is a company’s social responsibility to control how much its customers are consuming is a debate in itself – one that is sure to consider additional factors such as business profits. Some may argue that companies are responsible to an extent, especially considering the e-waste crisis is a global one. Others will argue that over-consumption should be dealt with by each consumer individually.
What can’t be reduced should be considered for reuse before being recycled. According to Craig Reucassel, host of ABC’s War on Waste, “The technology these days moves faster so we end up chucking out stuff that works.”
Additionally, studies show that Australia’s obsession with technology is so bad that we have more unused mobile phones lying around in our homes than people in the country. It is estimated that Australians have hoarded approximately 25 million mobile phones that are sitting in their houses, not in use.
It should be emphasised that the products we are over-consuming still have use even after being neglected.
Reusing the technology that would otherwise contribute to a mass amount of e-waste simply means consumers should sell the products if they no longer want them. Take advantage of sites like eBay to encourage perfectly fine tech products to simply not go to waste. Not only will you help reduce the global e-waste crisis, but you’ll also make some extra money for yourself.
Think about it – waste that can make you money simply can’t be wasted. This is especially relevant for waste that ends up in landfill, and unfortunately, quite a bit of e-waste does. Waste that ends up in landfill has no value – or at least, it shouldn’t. Why contribute to a landfill of overflowing waste if the products have more use left in them?
The ultimate step to reducing our e-waste crisis is ensuring that what does get consumed gets recycled appropriately. This involves three key aspects. The first is to understand how and what to recycle. The second is to trust in an authorised e-waste recycler. The third is to trust in, not only a national but also a global, e-waste recycling scheme.
Australia currently has a National E-waste Recycling Scheme, which has been in effect since 2011. However, it only covers televisions and computers, and is said to show a lack of clarity in “who is responsible for what.”
The Scheme doesn’t cover mobile phones, which are no doubt a problem when it comes to Australian e-waste. According to Mr Reucassel, Australia only recycles 10% of mobile phones.
Our current scheme isn’t strong enough, however, this isn’t unique to Australia. 2016 studies show that out of 45 million tonnes of e-waste that the world produced that year, only 20% of it was recycled. The remaining 80% ended up in landfill – a massive damage to our environment.
Our e-waste crisis can be reduced with responsible and ethical e-waste recycling solutions. What is undoubtedly a complex issue can be simplified by the practices of reducing, reusing and recycling. Imagine the amount of e-waste we can reduce if we apply the simple slogan that has been embedded into our memories for decades.
Nationwide Waste Solutions is your trusted waste management company. We provide ethical and socially responsible e-waste management services to our clients. To enquire, call us on 1300 729 922 or contact us here.
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