How many phones do you remember having over the years? For many, this number might send a shiver down the spine when properly thinking about the numbers and money spent. But, due to our rapid technology-driven society, it has simply become ‘the norm’ for us to feel the pressures of succumbing to having the latest phone and biggest TV in our homes.
This trend and lifestyle choice means the UK is now one of the largest producers of electronic waste in the world. In fact, every year, an estimate of two million tonnes of electronic items are thrown by household residents in the UK, which poses a huge task when it comes to recycling the items and keeping them out of landfill.
What is electronic waste?
Electronic waste is also known as e-waste and is any electronic item that is no longer wanted or is faulty. For example, LED bulbs, laptops, fridges and microwaves.
These electronics contain valuable, non-renewable resources including gold, silver, copper, platinum, aluminium and cobalt. And, as you can imagine, when these items are not recycled correctly, all of these precious materials are being thrown away and not able to be reused.
Is e-waste dangerous?
When e-waste is disposed of incorrectly and starts to break down, it releases toxic heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium. Once placed in landfill or on the streets, these toxins have a higher chance of reaching the soil.
As rain water moves down through the soil, the toxins are carried away and end up being consumed by the soil and crops. This is known as leaching and leads to a pollution in our food and water supply. Due to its toxic composition, the risks to public health and the environment from consuming leachate are high and if not treated, will be problematic for many years.
How can it be disposed of?
Due to the harmful chemicals present in electronic waste, it is crucial that it is disposed of and recycled correctly and safely. This is especially important for businesses who create e-waste as they must fully comply with Government legislation.
If your item cannot be reused, sold or donated, the best way to dispose of it is by visiting your local council website and searching for your nearest recycling centre that accepts electrical waste. Once there, each recycling container will be clearly labelled to say what can be placed inside. If you are unsure what items can be recycled, it can be simply narrowed down to any item that has a plug, battery or cable, which makes the deciding process much less complicated.
At first, it may be hard to part with your electronics and take them to be recycled. However, by putting all of the items together into a pile, it will make it easier to see and accept that you don’t need those five old phone chargers that probably don’t even fit your phone anymore.
As well as this, under the terms of the WEEE directive, when retailers sell customers a new version of the same item, they must provide customers with a way of disposing of their old household electrical and electronic equipment, either through a collection service or a store take-back scheme. This makes recycling electronics more accessible and removes any possible obstacle some may face in trying to find a recycling centre.
Examples of how to reuse electronic items
It’s best to try and reuse electronic items as much as possible. For example, if you’re purchasing a new phone, consider donating your old one to a friend or researching charities that will be very happy to accept them.
For those avid Amazon Prime users, you will benefit from knowing about The Amazon Trade-In programme. When you’re wanting to upgrade your electronic devices, this programme allows customers to receive an Amazon UK gift card in exchange for sending their eligible Amazon devices. The process is an easy and convenient way to make recycling electronics even more worthwhile.
There are also some quirky ways you can reuse your electronic gadgets to spruce up your garden if you are into DIY. Items like lightbulbs, clocks and even tvs can be repurposed to give a new home to plants and vegetables in your home or garden.
Things to note
It is common that old electrical items will be found when doing a home or business clearout; however, it’s important to note that if a skip is being used for this clearance, electrical items cannot be put into it due to the hazardous materials present, it’s best to contact the skip hire company before hiring.