E-WASTE: IT’S TIME TO REDESIGN THE ELECTRONIC INDUSTRY

Electronic waste is the world’s fastest-growing waste stream with harmful consequences to the planet and to humankind. It is about time to redesign the electronic industry.

In our society having the latest version of an electronic good is yet seen as something cool and even a status symbol. Consumers queueing to be the first ones to get a new gadget is a great marketing hit.

While consumers want to get the most out of technology, companies are speeding the pace of obsolescence, forcing us into shorter upgrade cycles. Smartphone batteries can’t be easily replaced, old cables don’t work on new laptops, and software firms push upgrades that will not run on old devices. 

Our way of producing and consuming electronic goods is deeply rooted in the linear economy approach of “make – take – dispose”. No wonder electronics are currently the world’s fastest- growing waste stream. The e-waste problem is threatening and is expected to hit even greater proportions as the world upgrades to 5G. Millions of smartphones, modems and other gadgets incompatible with 5G networks will be made obsolete. 

In the West only 20% of e-waste ends up in appropriate recycling facilities. The remaining 80% is sent, often illegally, to developing countries where they are dumped in landfills or incinerated. 

A great amount of electronic waste is pulled apart by hand or burned by the world’s poorest workers in a crude form of urban mining. Within very poor working conditions, various toxic electronic components are inappropriately disposed. This is harmful not only to the environment but also, to workers. 

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