We have a problem with e-waste all over the world, but in Europe the infamous leaders are two – Norway and the UK, only that the latter has decided to do something about it.
As a reminder, e-waste or electro-waste is used electrical and electronic equipment that cannot be disposed of together with other garbage as it contains many harmful substances. The principles of handling and recovery of e-waste are regulated by national and European Union legislation. In some countries the problem is smaller and in others it is huge, and according to a report just published by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), the UK is at the forefront of the latter group.
Admittedly, some of the responsibility here lies with the tech giants who discourage (or outright prevent) users from repairing or using their devices for long periods of time, but really a lot depends on consumer practices. Anyway, how bad is it in the UK? It’s estimated that each citizen generates an average of 23.9kg of electro-waste per year, which ranks infamously second in Europe, just behind Norway. Much of this garbage is either incinerated or ends up in landfill, and around 40% is sent abroad, often illegally: – In the countries that receive our electronic waste, it usually ends up dumped somewhere illegally, with toxic chemicals leaking into the environment and harming residents, the EAC suggests.
The report points out that online retailers like Amazon and eBay are not always treated as sellers or manufacturers, so they are not required to engage in the collection and recycling of such waste, which should change. The committee urges them to “collect products and pay to recycle them to create a network of understanding with physical sellers and manufacturers who do not sell on their platforms.” The EAC also raised the issue of intentionally aging products and shortening their lifespan, as the practice leads consumers to buy new products when they could have used old ones and protect the environment by reducing waste.
It also slammed companies that often make it difficult to repair their products, for example by gluing parts together. The committee also pointed to Apple’s practices here, which charges so much for repairing equipment that it is more economical to buy new, when such a situation should not occur. – Technology companies should show the way to create sustainable and environmentally friendly businesses that do not rely on excessive exploitation of nature and natural resources – explained its members. As you can easily guess, this doesn’t exactly please Apple, which explains that no one has taken into account its efforts to protect the planet and the fact that repairing its products has never been so accessible and effective. Amazon has also chipped in with their 3 cents, they report that they have contributed to the recycling of over 10,000 tons of electronic waste in the UK over the past decade. However, it seems that this is still not enough…