Downgrades Downstream: E-Waste and You
Updated: Mar 9
Take a look around your house. How many electronic devices do you have that are gathering dust? How many of those are gathering dust because they don’t work correctly, if at all? The common term for this defunct tech is electronic waste or e-waste. It is causing more problems than just taking up space next to your holiday decorations in the closet, however. E-waste has become an increasing concern in the monitoring of solid waste and landfill deposits around the globe. North and South America, for example, contribute to 25% (11.3 million tons) of the almost 45 million tons of e-waste cataloged globally in 2016 with only 1.9 million tons marked as collected and recycled. So what does this mean for your old laptop, television, or DVD player stuffed among the basement Parcheesi and Scrabble games in the basement? Maybe it means advocating for change in your area to keep these recyclable materials out of a landfill or repairing the items in question in the first place.
According to 2015 statistics, 22 states in the U.S. do not have e-waste recycling laws that govern the disposal of materials. We at Greenscape Geeks are staunch believers in education and awareness that doesn’t belittle those without it. As such, it is up to those willing and able to take action to speak up to local representatives in areas without said laws! Guide friends or family on how to properly dispose or repair their old electronics to avoid negligent e-waste or possible fines for illegal disposal. A simple web search of “e-waste recycling near me” can show good results. Depending on the criteria for the recycling center, you may even be entitled to a donation rebate. Not only does it feel good to help the environment, but a little pocket change doesn’t hurt either, right?
The other part of reducing e-waste is a responsibility on the part of consumers and companies alike. Consider what a new model of a phone will bring to the table if the features remain somewhat the same but the thinner frame gets covered up by a protective case anyway! Or maybe you get a cracked screen that impairs the functionality of the phone. Cracked screens can be replaced, but sometimes the prices are pretty steep, even for third party repair shops. Perhaps you’ve heard the term “built-in obsolescence” before from your disgruntled aunt, uncle, mom or dad (let’s face it, you probably screen their tech support calls). If that phrase has always seemed like a harsh indictment to you, consider the fact that some companies are taking steps to remove the end-users autonomy in owning products altogether.
It is manufacturing and software obstacles like this that have Jack and Jill fix-its around the world standing up for an emerging stance on the “Right to Repair.” Why should you be forced to seek support and hamstring yourself with hunting down parts in the back pages of Craigslist or eBay? Some people feel the exact same as you and your disgruntled relatives. They are fighting to save money and needless manufacturing wastes from some companies (but not all) who choose only to offer in house repairs. Collegiate and university students are putting these ideals of self-repair into practice by hands-on classes partnered with iFixit, an online service manual and toolkit distributor. Even presidential candidates for the 2020 race are advocating the legislation on their platforms. So next time you feel alone in your frustration, just remember: there are whole communities willing to lend a screwdriver, recycling spot, or even some rebate-friendly options. All you have to do is seek them out! View the seemingly insurmountable problems of today armed with knowledge and geek enthusiasm!