The Carbon Column – The growing problem of WEEE

In this post I look at e-waste, one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world

Big Zero Report 2022

WEEE

I upgraded my phone recently. I replaced my old iPhone 6 with a newer version. I can’t remember when I got the iPhone 6 but it was 6 years old. I gave the old phone to Apple, as they are supposedly big on sustainability.

I’ve recently recorded a podcast discussing refurbished IT equipment and the importance of extending the lifespan of hardware. Only a couple of months ago I was speaking with a professor at a local university about the terrible management of waste electronic and electrical equipment in the UK (WEEE). These conversations made me want to share some thoughts on this troubled sector.

 

WEEE Sector

WEEE or e-waste is waste that requires an electrical current to operate but does not exceed a certain level of volts. It includes products such as TVs, computers, consumer electric devices, fridges and freezers.  All things with a finite lifespan.

WEEE is the fastest growing waste stream in the world. In 2019, global e-waste was 54 million tonnes, which equates to over 7 kg/person. This is expected to increase by nearly 39% to 75 million tonnes by 2030.

Increasing electronic waste will likely cause further environmental and social pressures in countries less equipped to manage e-waste effectively.

 

Main challenges of WEEE

There are many challenges with e-waste. The energy required in the use of electrical products used to be a major concern, but less so today. The environmental and socioeconomic impacts are far greater during the production and extraction phases.

The mining of metals in electrical devices can be more scarce than bulk metals such as gold. These metals require more land, water and energy, as well as creating additional health hazards, conflicts and human rights issues in the mining regions.

The production of these items also uses incredibly toxic chemicals which can have thousands of times more greenhouse gas potency than carbon dioxide.

If we don’t dispose and manage e-waste effectively, the climate impact will be huge.

Shipping it to Ghana and China to dispose of it is not the solution.

 

TechBuyer

During the recent podcast I recorded, I spoke to an interesting company called TechBuyer. TechBuyer are based closed to me in Harrogate.

They are leading in refurbishment of electronic hardware. Data centres, laptops, computers and other office hardware.

Focused on ensuring organsations can maximise their IT budgets whilst improving the lifecycle and sustainability of the products.

This reduces demand and provides one way in which businesses can manage the global e-waste problem we are facing.

If you’re interested in in hearing more about this, you can listen to TechBuyer on a podcast I’ll be releasing in a couple of weeks.

Find me on LinkedIn or contact me here if you have any thoughts on the topic of e-waste.

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