What is E-Waste & Why is Mobile Phone E-Waste a Huge Problem?

The number of discarded electronics has been steadily climbing over the years, and with the constant production of high-end gadgets, the world is facing a different crisis - electronic waste or e-waste as it is more commonly known. According to Time Magazine, around 6 billion pounds of electronics are being recycled in a recycling plant in Fresno. Its workers are doing their best to sort out the recyclable materials while others break down bulkier gadgets to get inside of them.

What is electronic waste? (photo credit: digitaltrends.com)

The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that in the United States alone, around $71 billion have been spent on communication devices back in 2017. The number has since gone up. Unfortunately, the demand for faster and better gadgets resulted in tons of electronic wastes being thrown away.

What is E-Waste?

The term e-waste is a loose term that points to electronic devices that are nearing their end of usage. Aside from entertainment systems such as TVs, DVD players, and large equipment like copiers and so on, mobile phones that are nearing their life expectancy fall under this category. These devices and equipment can either be repaired or recycled.

Some may be wondering, “E waste why is it a problem?”. Aside from adding to the already growing pile of trash in dumpsters all over the world, there are also electronic components that are considered hazardous. For example, the cathode ray tubes from televisions are considered dangerous. For smartphones, the battery packs can be a potential hazard too when they start to leak. Just think of chemicals like mercury, beryllium, lead, cadmium, and others leaking into the ground, the waterways, and even the air. Exposure to these toxic chemicals can have an adverse effect on our health as well as plant and animal life.

How to Reduce Electronic Wastes

How to reduce e-waste? (photo credit: digitaltechnology.ca)

The e waste generated by mobile phones is growing rapidly as the combination of new models and people having money to spend have one result: discarding the old but still working phones for the newer ones. Unfortunately, the older models end up getting discarded while others are stored in drawers to be forgotten.

But did you know that you can do your part in reducing electronic wastes? All that you have to remember is the four Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Repair, and Recycle. Let’s take a closer look at the four.

  • Reduce.

  • Reducing the amount of e-wastes that we produce is one way to lessen our impact to our surroundings. Many assume that the amount of e waste mobile phones that we produce cannot be helped at all since mobile phone manufacturers keep producing newer models. Who wouldn’t want to have a bigger, better, and faster mobile device, right? Unfortunately, our desire to own the latest model comes with downsides. One, we often spend more than we can afford for a gadget that only has a few new features, and two, the older phone gets discarded which adds to the e-waste.

    Well, companies like Apple have seen the effects of their manufacturing process and are currently planning on using recycled materials for their next generation of iPhones. Others are offering trade-in plans in the hopes of enticing customers to return their old mobile devices to get discounts on their next smartphone. These are great ideas true, but not everyone is taking advantage of this offer.

    That being said, it is possible to reduce electronic wastes by taking care of your device to help prolong its life span. This will include buying a cover for it to minimize the damage it receives when you accidentally drop it. Not only will this reduce the need to replace your smartphone, you also get to save money in the process.

  • Reuse.

  • Just because your electronics or mobile phones are nearing their life span, it doesn’t mean that you should simply throw them away. As a matter of fact, you can give them a second lease in life by reusing or repurposing them. When it comes to mobile phone waste management, reusing them is one way of preventing them from getting dumped in landfills. In what way can you reuse your old device?

    If it is still in good condition, you can give it to your grandparents, your children, or even those who need a smartphone. You can even use it as a spare camera that will record your home and all the goings-on. If your device is in mint condition, you can even sell it for a decent price when it becomes obsolete. Just imagine the possibilities that you can do with your old smartphone.

  • Repair. 

  • Mobile phones and other electronics will deteriorate over time. That being said, repairing any parts that have been broken or are malfunctioning can help extend the device’s lifespan considerably. Manufacturers offer a one-year warranty for their products wherein free repairs can be obtained. If you are more of a DIY person, then you can do the repairs yourself. You just need to purchase the right tools for the task in order to accomplish it. There are several repair shops that offer DIY kits and mobile phone parts that you can buy from.

    Another way to extend the life of your old device, and to help reduce e waste generated by mobile phones, is to have it refurbished instead. Repaired phones are second hand mobile devices that have been repaired and restored to factory settings prior to being sold. Take for example at QwikFone. Aside from repairing smartphones, they also offer cheap refurbished mobile phones as well that work and look brand-new. This shop is just one of the numerous retailers out there who are helping reduce e wastes nowadays which make them an essential part of the mobile phone industry.

  • Recycle.

  • For old mobile devices that are beyond saving, the last step in reducing electronic waste is to recycle them. There are recycling centers that accept old mobile devices. These are the best places to hand over your electronics since they have the tools to do so. You can also check if your phone’s manufacturer has the same offer so you can bring your old phone to them for recycling.

    Why Mobile Phone Recycling Isn’t Happening Often

    Why recycling isn’t happening often? (Photo credit: mymemory.co.uk)

    E waste why is it a problem, you ask? As it was mentioned before, the number of electronic equipment and gadgets that are being disposed of have gone up over the years. There are two reasons why this is so.

  • Not everyone is aware of the growing problem. If you ask mobile phone users if they are aware that their habit of switching smartphones at a rapid pace is hurting the planet, many would say that they did not know. Many are not even aware that there is life after for these castoffs. Instead of tossing your old mobile phones or other electronics in the trash, why not bring them to a recycling plant where they can be put to good use? 
  • Inconvenience. Time is of the essence, so they say, and it is one of the reasons why many are not interested in going the distance when it comes to disposing of their old devices in a safe manner. For many, spending time on a gadget or equipment that no longer works is not worth it. Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons why many end up in landfills, filling our surroundings with hazardous wastes.
  • The lack of proper disposal of these devices not only put the environment at risk, but also the users as well, especially when their personal data remains stored in them. When this happens, you can be prone to being scammed or even identity theft which can affect your business transactions and personal connections too. 

    Helpful Tips Before You Recycle

    Getting into reducing the amount of e-waste that we are producing can have a long-lasting effect on us. Aside from spending less on buying mobile devices, we are also keeping these gadgets still circulating even when they are past their prime. But before you send in your previous smartphone to recycling centers or even trading them for a brand-new model, you might want to follow these tips.

  • Know the laws. Laws on recycling will vary from one country to the next. Find out more about your recycling laws prior to handing in your gadget. 
  • Delete contents. Never hand in your mobile phone without deleting all of its contents. You can transfer files, photos, and videos on your computer first before you do a factory reset. This way, you will not put your personal information in jeopardy when you hand in your device to someone else. 
  • Choose a certified recycling plant. It is always a good idea to approach a certified recycling plant when it comes to disposing of your old electronics to ensure that they understand the correct process of recycling. If there is no appropriate waste disposal, the parts can still end up in landfills where they can harm the environment further. 

  • How Buying Second Hand Smartphones Can Help

    Now that you know the answer to the question, “What is e-waste?”, you might be looking for other ways to help save the planet. Aside from doing the four Rs that were mentioned above when it comes to reducing e waste mobile phones , there is another step to take and that is by choosing a second hand mobile phone for your next device.

    This type of martphones often had a bad rep to them because they are often seen as second-class devices that do not have enough life to them. This is far from the truth. Nowadays, mobile phone companies as well as third-party retailers have access to OEM parts that are used to replace malfunctioning or broken components in order to return the unit to a like-new state. As a matter of fact, you will find several second hand units to be in pristine condition!

    What does this mean?

    • A newly repaired mobile device will look and function like it was new. 
    • It will come with a warranty just like when you purchase a brand-new mobile phone. 
    • Some offer free accessories which can save you money. 
    • They are priced affordably since they are not tagged as new. 
    • They tend to be open line meaning that they are not locked into a specific carrier. 
    Given that second hand smartphones are generally cheaper and have the same benefits as that of brand-new mobile phones, why spend thousands when you can get the previous model at a much lower price? Not only will this help you save money, you are also reducing your impact to the environment. 

    Wrap Up

    Understanding what is e-waste can help us take the necessary steps to protect our environment from the harmful components of these devices. As consumers of anything tech related, we have the duty and responsibility to mind our usage and how they are disposed of as well. This way, we won’t have to end neck deep in electronic waste in the future.

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