6 Solid Tips for Reducing Your Contribution to the E-Waste Problem

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Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)—better known as e-waste—is the common term that we assign to electrical or electronic devices that have reached the end of their service life. Everyday examples that can be found in our own homes are broken kitchen appliances, cellular phones, computers, electric light bulbs,and electrical cords. But are you aware of just how much e-waste your household accumulates and how it contributes to the world’s burgeoning e-waste problem?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that e-waste comprises just 2% of America’s landfill trash but accounts for as much as 70% of its toxic waste. Ten years ago, in 2009, we accumulated about 2.37 million tons of junk from old electronic scraps, such as old TVs, computers, and computer peripherals. Worldwide, as much as 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed of every year, with only 12.5% of that waste subject to recycling.

The hardest pill to swallow is that yes, we are all part of the problem. Most of the time, we don’t account for how much e-waste we produce in our homes, and our daily habits revolve around fast and convenient consumption. Now is the time to be more mindful about our e-waste and make a conscious effort to reduce what goes into the world’s waste stream. To that end, we present a list of six solid tips for reducinge-waste in your home.

Buy rechargeable batteries

The small AA or AAA batteries that you use in your appliances are made of cadmium-nickel, alkaline, and mercury. If not disposed of properly, batteries with these materials can become health hazards in your home and pollutants in the environment. To lessen your use of single-use batteries, opt to buy rechargeable batteries instead. Doing so also enables more efficient use of energy. Using a battery charger likewise costs less and results in less overall environmental footprint than depending on a constant stream of new disposable batteries.

Buy remanufactured products

On the subject of spending less and consuming less, we also recommend purchasing recycled and remanufactured consumables for your electronic equipment. For instance, you can buy remanufactured ink and toner cartridges for your printer. It’s relatively easy to find high-quality remanufactured cartridges that are expertly refurbished and filled with good-quality ink, which helps if you don’t want to compromise the print quality of your documents. Just make sure that your are buying from a reputable retailer.

Less spending on expensive new OEM cartridges also means less waste for our already overcrowded landfills. Moreover, there will be less danger of them ending up in the ocean, and there will also be less oil, water, and chemical resources consumed to make the actual ink, the new cartridges, and also new packaging.

Take special care of your electrical cords

One of the most common forms of e-waste is old electrical cords. Admittedly, we do no favors to the service life of our cords if we keep stepping on them, tangling them, or pulling them too hard. Advise everyone in your family to be very careful with cords—and also to unplug them in order to prevent equipment damage when there is power surge. When your devices, appliances, or their components give out, see if the manufacturer offers an e-waste recycling program, such as what Apple does for Apple-branded power cords.

Lessen consumption of single-use storage devices

You might have a lot of old CDs lying around; remember that these also have a limited shelf life, and can break or accumulate mold. Instead of burning your data on single-use CDs, choose to use rewriteable CDs or storage devices for data transfer and storage instead. Don’t forget as well to upload important files on the cloud, as this will allow for near-infinite storage and easy data transfer and access.

Don’t buy new gadgets until you really need them

Sometimes it’s hard to resist going after a new gadget. However,don’t let the green-eyed monster get the best of you just because newer devices are available and you’ve seen your peers brandishing them before you. Try your best to maximize the lifecycle of your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. More often than not, some simple software and hardware upgrades are enough to get them back up to par. It’s best to replace your gadget only if it’s broken beyond repair or if its operating system (OS) has become too obsolete.
Donate your e-waste

Above all, do not dispose of your e-waste the same way you would dispose of your plastic, paper, or food scraps. E-waste scrap items could contain substances like lead, mercury, or beryllium, and as such, they must be disposed of at a facility that is safe and well-equipped to handle them. The options you currently have available are: landfills, small specialist recyclers for e-waste, shredder operators that deal with metal materials, or hammer mills that shred metal from dilapidated vehicles and larger household appliances. Still, the best approach is to supplement your recycling habits with better conservation habits. The goal is to minimize e-waste, and to free up the space that they take up.

Good luck, and here’s to solving the big e-waste problem together!