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How the E-Waste Industry is Ramping Up the Circular Economyby@zaheer-dodhia
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How the E-Waste Industry is Ramping Up the Circular Economy

by Zaheer DodhiaSeptember 30th, 2022
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About 54 million tons of e-waste is produced each year, with UN reports predicting a doubling in U.S. output in the next 16 years. The United States alone, we dump about sixty million dollars worth of gold and silver each year in our old cell phones. The U.N. estimates that in 2019, the value placed on the materials in electronic waste was about seven and a half billion dollars. The circular economy is based on building a sustainable future based on which we reduce waste and reduce waste.

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How about those tech companies? They’re having quite a heyday. With electronics ever more in demand — and more “IT” products being produced every year — it’s no surprise that the big companies are reporting up to 50 percent more revenue this year than at the same time a year ago. We all need electronics. To do our work, to communicate with others, to be entertained, to learn, and to keep ourselves from going crazy in these deeply odd times.

That being said, there’s a dark side to the tech boom: the rise of e-waste.

The Facts On Electronic Waste Disposal

E-waste is a problem that just doesn’t know when to quit.

Already, it makes up about 70 percent of the toxic waste in our national landfills.  About 54 million tons of e-waste is produced each year, with UN reports predicting a doubling of our e-waste output in the next sixteen years.

But we need technology to keep our lives going as smoothly as possible. We need laptops and cell phones. For many of us, technology simply isn’t optional. And with smartphones lasting about two years on average and laptops between three and five years, there’s bound to be some turnover, especially if we use our tech products on a daily basis. Which most of us do.

There may not seem to be any easy answer — but that doesn’t mean there’s no answer at all.

The Growth Of The E-Waste Industry

Along with the rise in e-waste disposal, we also see the rise of the corresponding industry: proper e-waste disposal. Whether it’s dropping your old smartphone off at a Best Buy or having a recycling company provide e-waste pick-up services for your old laptop, it’s more than just tossing outdated or broken tech into the garbage bin. 

Electronic waste has a massive impact on the environment if it’s just thrown away in a landfill. It leaches into the soil and groundwater, causing issues in the health and well-being of humans and animals alike. Effectively and safely disposing of e-waste involves not only taking the proper precautions to protect the environment, but also preventing as much of the waste material from ending up in the landfill as possible.

That’s where recycling comes in — and where we really start to see how the e-waste industry is having an impact on the goal of a circular economy.

Tying The E-Waste Industry Into The Circular Economy

The circular economy continues to be the goal for many environmentally-minded businesses and organizations. An economic model in which we gradually reduce waste through reusing valuable materials helps to cut down on the impact of our businesses now and in the future.

Proper e-waste recycling and disposal is a significant boost to at least the first two principles of the circular economy, with the end result that the third principle also comes into play.

Eliminating waste and pollution — proper e-waste disposal involves stripping the usable and valuable materials from the electronics before they are disposed of. This is a significant endeavor, with an even more significant payoff. In 2019, to take one example, the value placed on the materials in electronic waste was about seven and a half billion dollars. One estimate is that in the United States alone, we dump about sixty million dollars worth of gold and silver each year, just in our old cell phones. Stripping those valuable materials from e-waste cuts down significantly on the portion of electronic waste that must actually be properly disposed of, and also on the pollution that could result.

Circulating products and materials — by rescuing all usable materials from tech that is destined for the dump, valuable resources like gold, silver, copper, and platinum, among others, are available to be reworked into new products. This conservation of materials cuts down on the polluting processes that are required to refine new resources, not to mention the monetary investment that goes along with it.

With all that the e-waste industry can do as far as eliminating waste and recirculating valuable resources, it’s easy to see that it boosts the third principle of the circular economy as well — helping the environment and nature to regenerate itself.

Building Businesses On The Back Of Sustainability

The circular economy is based on building a sustainable future, in which we reuse resources and reduce waste. It’s circular because it feeds back into itself.

The e-waste disposal industry and the circular economy operate on the same basic wavelength, as well. E-waste promotes and feeds on the circular economy, and the more we follow the circular economy model, the more e-waste becomes a benefit to us, rather than a detriment.

Currently, there is still far more e-waste to be recycled than there actually are e-waste disposal companies to deal with it. But as the visibility of this continuing issue becomes more obvious, more companies are stepping up their game. Tech giants are doing more to reduce the cycle of “buy a new phone every year,” and focusing more on refurbishing and reselling older products that have not yet reached the end of their lifetime. And individual e-waste disposal companies are constantly looking for new ways to recycle the plethora of new products that are released each year.

One thing is for sure — it’s definitely an ongoing project, with no real end in sight. But the more we use and promote responsible e-waste companies, the better it will continue to be for our circular economy — and the better it will be for our future.