Last month U.S. Rep. Paul Cook of California introduced the “Secure E-Waste and Export Act” to prevent counterfeit parts from making their way into U.S. military hardware. The bill will ban the export of all used, non-working electronics from the United States. But China is already one of the world’s biggest generators of e-waste, so it’s difficult to see how this will make any difference. It’s an unnecessary bill. But it’s also an environmentally destructive piece of legislation.
On Monday, Apple held one of its regular keynotes—an event usually dedicated to new products and upgraded specs. But Apple execs led the event with something a little different this time: its new recycling robot, Liam. So, what’s our take on the new disassembly superpower? Our co-founder Kyle Wiens recently published an article with Wired.com—breaking down why Liam is a step forward, and how the recycling robot is likely to fall short.
According to a new EPA report, Americans increased their overall production of municipal waste in 2013 to 254 million tons of waste—or 4.4 pounds per person per day. But e-waste was one of the few categories where recycling rates increased significantly—by ten percentage points in just one year. So, good job everyone: fewer electronics are winding up in the trash heaps. But we’re not done yet. Recycling is just one piece of the larger moving puzzle that is sustainable resource management.
Just how much e-waste is piling it up around the globe? A new infographic from CustomMade breaks down the good, the bad, and the deadly. According to CustomMade, “the global volume of refrigerators, TVs, cellphones, computers, monitors, and other electronic waste will weigh almost as much as 200 Empire State Buildings”—evidence that our existing “out of sight, out of mind” mentality really isn’t a viable long-term option when it comes to e-waste.
If you’ve ever been at the tail end of a line full of cranky, frenzied, mashed-potato-fueled Black Friday shoppers, you know: we’re a consumer society. Even after the holidays, exorbitant consumption is a year-round phenomenon—especially when it comes to electronics. But why is the allure of buying so irresistible—even if we don’t really need anything? If money burns a hole in our collective pockets, who exactly is fanning the flames? Meet the men whose job it is to make us spend.
What does it take to turn the lights on in poverty-stricken, rural communities? According to a group of researchers from IBM, the solution just might be e-waste. And they’re proving it by turning old laptop batteries into new, low-cost lights that can power homes and shops in the developing world. They are calling the project UrJar—and, sold cheaply, they hope UrJar will light up the world.
The post-Christmas season is an e-waste high water mark in the United States. New computers, phone docks, wireless speakers, and watches under the Christmas tree crowd out the old(er) ones. What isn’t donated or recycled usually makes its way to the trash. And a recent study by the United Nations University and MIT has details on just how high our e-trash hoard is getting.
According to the International Environmental Technology Center of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) the volume of e-waste is increasing by 40 percent per year worldwide. They estimate that 80 percent goes into landfills and incinerators. According to UNEP, e-waste is the fastest-growing type of waste. In some developing countries, the volume is expected to grow by up to 500 percent over the next decade. Check up with the state of electronics recycling around the world on iFixit.org.
Slim electronics might look great, but there’s a major problem with their design: battery accessibility. The growing trend in electronics is a seamless device that keeps the owner from replacing the battery. Instead, owners are forced to buy new products—when their old device is still running smoothly. If you own the product, the battery should be yours to change.
E-waste is a tricky problem in part because of its complexity: for a computer to end up in the infamous Ghana dump site Agbogbloshie, it has to pass through hundreds of hands, from assembly line workers, to retail salespeople, to users, to exporters, to scavengers. The problem can be overwhelmingly abstract, but documentaries make it more real and immediate. Terra Blight, a recently released independent documentary film, gives the problem a human face and unravels some of its complexities.