Here’s what to do with a drawer full of old gadgets

Here's what to do with a drawer full of old gadgets
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Decades of pressure from the technology sector to “innovate or die” has led to a long list of useful and brilliant home tech products, but many of these same devices need to be replaced at the rate at which new technology emerges.

The result of this so-called planned obsolescence, along with a limited number options for repairing old devices over the years is a tsunami of electronic waste, also known as e-waste. And the result goes far beyond the headache of figuring out what to do with the clutter that’s piled up inside your home.

“Planned obsolescence makes it worse. People now expect to buy a new computer every three to four years, a new phone every two years,” said Jim Puckett, executive director of the Seattle-based e-waste watchdog Basel Action Network. group. “It’s a mountain that keeps growing.”

The latest United Nations History It shows that the world generated a staggering 53.6 metric tons of e-waste in 2019, of which only 17.4% was recycled. The burden and damage of e-waste often falls on developing countries. US Environmental Protection Agency my dears “Unspecified amounts of used electronics are shipped from the United States and other developed countries to developing countries that lack the ability to refuse imports or properly manage these materials.”
World Health Organization (WHO) warned The disposal and processing of e-waste, which increased last year, can cause a number of “adverse effects on children’s health”, including changes in lung function, DNA damage and an increased risk of certain chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease later in life.

In addition, more than 18 million children and adolescents are “actively engaged” in the informal e-waste recycling industry, the WHO warned. WHO reports that children and teenagers are often used to sift through mountains of e-waste in search of valuable materials such as copper and gold because their small hands are more dexterous than adults’.

Puckett said the e-waste issue “is about environmental justice on a global level.” “This is to prevent rich countries from dumping their waste and dirty technologies on developing countries.”

A man sits in front of e-waste, or e-waste of computers, in a workshop in New Delhi, India, in July 2020.

The growing environmental crisis is now attracting the attention of lawmakers from Europe to the United States, as well as communities in developing countries where e-waste has historically been dumped at sea.

EU officials approved a new law last month requiring all phones and electronics to use a standard, brand-agnostic charger, which could limit how many different cords the average consumer has to carry. In a letter, three progressive American lawmakers urged the United States to follow suit.

sense Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders said the EU’s new policy “has the potential to significantly reduce e-waste and could help consumers tired of rummaging through bins full of cluttered chargers to find a suitable one or buy a new one.” “a letter He appealed to the US Secretary of Commerce. The senators addressed the bipartisan hot topic of “taking over powerful technology companies” in the interests of consumers and the environment.

For now, e-waste regulation exists primarily at the state level and is minimal signs of federal policy moving forward in the near future. In the absence of that, the onus remains on consumers — and companies — to take initiative and find better ways to deal with old electronics.

What consumers and companies can do about it

When Corey Dehmey worked in corporate IT departments, he was to figure out what to do with the hundreds of company computers that are no longer up-to-date. Now, as executive director of the nonprofit organization Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI), he is part of a group working to combat the e-waste crisis by fostering collaboration between government, the private sector and consumers.

“E-waste is the result of failure to plan for the entire life cycle of a product,” Dehmey said. “We’re just reacting to a problem that we created years ago. And so if we’re going to get ahead of this thing, we have to think about these things — what we design and what consumers buy.”

For this, SERI introduces itself and controls it certification standards facilities for e-waste recycling ensuring proper disposal of e-waste. It also hosts events for businesses and other stakeholders and engages in advocacy work to pressure companies and governments to adopt more sustainable approaches to electronics development.

“We have to find ways to use it [an electronic device] last longer, repair, reuse,” Dehmey said, noting that this would require mindset changes from both consumers and companies.

There has been some reason for optimism on this front in recent months. The rise in e-waste has led to increased pressure on manufacturers to ease restrictions on fixing devices for individuals and independent repair shops in a push known as the “right to repair” movement. President Joe Biden last year accepted the order it directed the Federal Trade Commission to issue regulations requiring companies to allow DIY repairs The FTC has vowed to “root it out.” illegal maintenance restrictions.
Now, several tech companies have launched initiatives to help repair older devices. Earlier this year apple and Samsung launched self-service repair shops, offering parts for users looking for DIY fixes for their smartphones. Google promised in the same way Parts to repair Pixel phones will be available to the public later this year.
A six-foot-high sea of ​​electronic waste covers the landscape at Westmoreland Cleanways and Recycling in Unity, Pa., on Friday, March 24, 2017.

Various coalitions have also emerged in recent years to empower consumers to dispose of their devices responsibly. Puckett, for example, helped launch e-Stewards, an e-waste recycling initiative that certifies and audits electronics recyclers to make sure they dispose of e-waste properly using “extremely rigorous standards.”

With this tool, consumers can look up nearby recycling centers. SERI also offers online tool to find a certified recycling center.

Jeff Seibert, chief provost of SERI (yes, that’s his real name), also advises consumers to contact their local municipalities to see if they have designated e-waste recycling plans. Several US retailers, including Staples and Best Buy, also have programs that allow consumers to bring in e-waste for recycling in the absence of broader infrastructure. Other companies, including Apple, have programs to offer credit or free recycling in exchange for trading in used gadgets.

Before deciding to donate or recycle your used electronics, the EPA recommends that you consider upgrading your computer’s hardware or software instead of buying a new product. If you decide to recycle, the EPA urges consumers to dispose of batteries that must be recycled separately. Recycling one million laptops saves the equivalent of the electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in one year, the agency says. The agency says that for every million cell phones recycled, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.

Beyond these options, Seibert simply urges consumers to start thinking about electronics the way we think about cars: we don’t toss our vehicles in the trash when we need new tires or have a cracked windshield.

“Everybody wants to do the right thing,” Seibert said. “So we have to give them the resources to be able to do that, and that’s still a work in progress.”

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