How often do you buy or replace electronics or electrical items? What do you do with the old ones? Do you have a pile to get rid of? Perhaps a collection in a drawer or cupboard that you’ve been meaning to deal with?
E-waste, or waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), is the planet’s fastest growing waste stream. Globally, 53.6 million metric tonnes were produced in 2019, up 21% in five years. Only 17.4% was collected and recycled, with much more languishing in landfill, burnt or illegally traded. Figures vary for different regions, but every country could do much better.
Raw materials for electricals and electronics includes some high-value metals. Some are becoming scarce on land, also with some reports of environmental destruction and human rights violations where it is mined. Demand is also growing for more obscure ‘rare-earth elements’ with unique properties suited to digital innovations (e.g. screen technology).
Few are aware of the commercial interest in mineral resources of the deep-sea. For those with financial backing there is much money to be made, but concern is growing about the likely impacts of deep sea mining. Conversely, these minerals also have an important role to play in green technology that is helping us tackle climate change, including for the capture and storage of renewable energy. As such, while some deep-sea mining may be necessary and scientists are working hard to try and make sure this is done responsibly, there is much we can do to limit the need to mine new resources from the seabed.
We have prepared a practical guide to reducing your consumption and waste of electronic and electrical items, which can at least limit the demand for potentially damaging deep-sea mining while creating other opportunities in the ‘circular economy’.
More activities on this subject to come!