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The Importance Of Promoting Electronics Recycling

Updated on August 30, 2017

Why Recycle Electronic Waste?

Electronics waste is the fastest-growing form of municipal waste and as such poses a global problem long-term.

This lense looks at the dangers of this kind of waste and examples of how one organization, the US-based Consumer Electronics Association, is working to promote awareness of and tackle this problem.

Promoting Electronic Recycling

Mobile phones, televisions, DVD players – as newer technologies replace the old at ever-more rapid rates, the volumes at which we are discarding such electronic items are growing alarmingly. In fact, e-waste is the fastest-growing form of municipal waste – a problem of which governments and environmental agencies are now acutely aware and are taking steps to tackle.

The problem up to fairly recently has been that a very low percentage of e-waste was recycled compared to other solid forms of household waste – this despite the fact that many electronic items today can be almost completely recycled. Electronic items also contain valuable recoverable metals – all of which require a great deal of resources to be mined. Mobile phones, for example, can contain copper, silver and gold. If these metals are recovered it means both costs and energy will be saved by extracting an equivalent amount from the ground.

The rapid growth of e-waste is also a safety issue, as discarded electronics will often contain toxic materials in the mix. Old televisions and soldered circuit boards contain lead, the harmful properties of which are well documented. Then there are the vast amounts of discarded batteries, many containing cadmium which is a known carcinogen. These are not the kinds of substances we want lying around in ever-increasing volumes. It also means that e-waste needs to be disposed of in the correct way to reduce the risk of the harmful toxins being released into the atmosphere.

Governments, industry and environmental organizations throughout the world have recognized the need to educate consumers on the correct recycling of electronics. A range of marketing and promotional techniques are being employed for this purpose, and there is a suggestion that this is paying off.

For example, a study released in September 2012 by the US-based Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) found that awareness of the possibilities for electronics recycling is on the rise. It found that nine in 10 consumers believe it’s important to recycle their consumer electronics.

To help effect this change in attitude, the CEA has been working with local, state and federal governments, as well as a number of NGOs, to educate consumers on the availability and accessibility of electronics recycling locations. In addition, the industry ‘eCycling Leadership Initiative’ has issued a Billion Pound challenge to responsibly recycle one billion pounds of electronics annually by 2016.

In addition to those employed by the CEA, there are plenty of other means open to organizations to educate consumers on this issue. Many feel the key is to target young people through promotional campaigns at universities, schools or colleges. Social media campaigns are also a highly popular and efficient way of targeting younger people to help continue this growing positive trend for increased recycling. After all, they are the ones who in years to come will shoulder the burden of dealing with the burden of waste management.

Clearly, in this hi-tech age we now live in the amount of electronics waste is not going to stop growing. What is now apparent is that we need:

1) More efficient ways of re-using and recycling it;

and

2) agreement on the best ways to communicate this. It appears now that efforts to achieve these two aims may now be starting to pay off – but there is still a long way to go.

Are you in favour of recycling and what sort of things do you do?

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