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International E-Waste Day 2020

Originated by the WEEE Forum in 2018, International E-Waste Day aims to raise awareness about the dangers of electronic waste, the power of recycling, and why your participation matters. 

This year’s theme is EDUCATION. By sensitizing young audiences to how serious e-waste issues are, we prepare a new generation of eco-savvy consumers. Only through their enthusiasm can the message be truly amplified among families, teachers, and local communities.

e-waste

However, this effort needs a serious jolt. Despite 6+ hours per day of electronic device use, 44% of young adults don’t know how to responsibly recycle their e-waste. 36% didn’t even know electronics were recyclable.

This should alarm us all as global e-waste skyrocketed 21% in 2019, hitting a record level of 53.6 million metric tons, according to a new UN report. With just 17.4% properly recycled, our track record for tackling the world’s fastest growing stream of waste is seriously subpar. 

Adding insult to injury, we’re sending 71 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. And rapidly wasting critical resources and removing valuable materials from our supply chain, valued at over $57 billion per year. All of it either burned or sent directly to landfills.

Perhaps even more sobering than both climate and economic effects is the potential impact on personal health.

How Will This Affect the Health Future Generations?

E-waste affects nearly every system of the human body. Electronics contain a variety of toxic components, including mercury, lead, cadmium, polybrominated flame retardants, barium and lithium. These toxins are known to produce birth defects, and damage to the brain, heart, liver and kidney. As well as the body’s skeletal, nervous and reproductive systems.

Non-recycling methods for dealing with e-waste. Burning electronics releases cancer-producing dioxins into the air we breathe. E-waste dumped in landfills may leach toxins into groundwater, affecting local aquifers and entering the food chain.

While this issue disproportionally hits developing countries, toxic waste knows no borders. The more e-waste we discard, the greater the environmental and health risk to everyone. 

E-waste is predicted to reach 74 million tons per year by 2030. Careless disregard for harmful consequences will impact the health of our children and grandchildren. 

What Can You Do? 

Don’t trash them. Electronics should never enter the waste bin. This includes small devices and accessories such as charging cables. Toxic chemicals in these products have no place in a landfill. It’s both harmful to our environment, and wasteful; they also include value metals.

Donate to a friend, family member or organization. You may be surprised who in your social circle could use an old device. Also, check with the Goodwill in your area for donation guidelines, or contact your local school system and nonprofits about their needs for used computers and equipment.

Recycle them. You can help reduce up to 70% of all toxins entering our landfills by simply disposing your e-waste responsibly. Visit e-stewards.org to find a convenient drop-off location. Tech retailers such as Best Buy also offer free e-waste recycling. Or, take advantage of our One-for-One Tech Recovery Project for a free & easy way to recycle your old tech with the purchase of any Nimble product.

How can kids get involved?

Organize a school fundraiser/recycling drive. With current COVID guidelines in mind, ask a teacher or school administrator about establishing a collection drive and encourage parents and classmates to drop-off unwanted electronics. While helpful in ensuring a healthier ecosystem, many of the products collected may still have value. Work with a local recycler to establish trade-in value to help raise additional funds for your school.

Learn to fix your gadgets. Just because a device is malfunctioning, doesn’t mean it’s time to move on. Helpful guides such as iFixit can help you discover how easy (and satisfying) repairing your own gadgets can be. This could also be the start of a new tech repair club at school!

No matter how you choose to personally tackle your own e-waste this year, start spreading the word about the environmental and health concerns we face. Our world is changing fast. Dealing with e-waste responsibly HAS to also be part of the new normal.

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