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E-waste – a golden opportunity

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After my degree in Communication, Media, and Advertising in November 2019, I decided to take a pause from my professional activities. I was looking for some internships/jobs, meanwhile, I received another scholarship call for specialization from Interior Ministry of Italia and in collaboration with CRUI (Conference Rector of Italian Universities). At Rome, I am still enrolled for specialization degree programme. Moreover, they took me very long way to get scholarship benefits. Today, I withdrew my scholarship call until July 2020.
Now a days I work remotely as Intern-Communication Officer for UK based renowned ICT (Information Communication Technology) company. My immediate boss assigned me some tasks, and shared an article with me to understand the matter of gravity. Last night I was reading that article and found very interesting stuff. It’s all about the electronic gadgets waste. I read this article on World Economic Forum website. According to this article Humankind’s insatiable demand for electronic devices is creating the world’s fastest-growing waste stream. Some forms are growing exponentially. The United Nations calls it a ‘tsunami’ of e-waste. While more electronic devices are part of the problem, they also can be a big part of the solution. A more digital and connected world will help us accelerate progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), offering unprecedented opportunities for emerging economies.
Get it right and we will see a lot less of our precious minerals, metals and resources dumped into landfill. The benefit to industry and workers as well as the health of people and the environment could be enormous. It is crucial we swiftly employ a more circular vision in this sector.
That’s why tackling this issue head-on is now seen as a crucial task for a number of global agencies, including the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other members of the E-Waste Coalition. ITU member states, for instance, recently set a target to increase the global e-waste recycling rate to 30%.
These agencies, along with the World Economic Forum and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, have released a joint report which calls for a new circular vision for the sector. The economic arguments are strong. If we look at the material value of our spent devices, globally this amounts to $62.5 billion, three times more than the annual output of the world’s silver mines, according to data in the New Global E-Waste Report. More than 120 countries have an annual GDP lower than the value of our growing pile of global e-waste.
By harvesting this valuable resource, we will generate substantially less CO2 emissions when compared to mining the earth’s crust for fresh minerals. It makes sense too – there is 100 times more gold in a ton of mobile phones than in a ton of gold ore.
Extending the life of electronic products and re-using electrical components brings an even larger economic benefit, as working devices are certainly worth more than the materials they contain. A circular electronics system – one in which resources are not extracted, used and wasted, but re-used in countless ways – creates decent, sustainable jobs and retains more value in the industry.
If ocean plastic pollution was one of the major environmental challenges we finally woke up to in 2018, the ebb and flow of public opinion could and should turn to electronic waste in 2019. The numbers are astounding; 50 million tons of e-waste are produced each year, and left unchecked this could more than double to 120 million tons by 2050.
It was so informative article for me, because we everyday use different gadgets to cope with daily needs. Personally experiencing that form last one decade, I have used 4 different types of mobile gadgets. Three of them are out-of-order, and still I have those in my possession. I can’t throw those mobiles into general waste-bin. Even though, now a days some electronic companies have placed/marked some places where we can put our old electronics stuff for Free of Cost (FoC).
It is hard to imagine even 50 million tons, yet this is equivalent in weight to all the commercial aircraft we have ever built throughout history, or 4,500 Eiffel Towers, enough to cover an area the size of Manhattan – and that’s just one year’s worth of the e-waste we create.
This mushrooming stream of screens, cables, chips and motherboards is fueled by our love of devices, many of which are connected to the internet. They now number more than humans and are projected to grow to 25-50 billion by 2020, reflecting plummeting costs and rising demand.
The situation is not helped by the fact that only 20% of global e-waste is formally recycled. The remaining 80% is often incinerated or dumped in landfill. Many thousands of tons also find their way around the world to be pulled apart by hand or burned by the world’s poorest workers. This crude form of urban mining has consequences for people’s wellbeing and creates untold pollution.
We already know what the solutions are; it is now a matter of implementing them effectively. Firstly, better e-waste management strategies and green standards can help address this challenge.
By all coming together on the global stage we can create a sustainable industry that generates less waste, and in which our devices are re-used as well recycled in novel ways. This also creates new forms of employment, economic activity, education and trade.
Already 67 countries have enacted legislation to deal with the e-waste they generate. Apple, Google, Samsung and many other brands have set ambitious targets for recycling and for the use of recycled and renewable materials.
It is now time we looked at dematerializing the electronics industry. The rise of device-as-a-service business models could be one avenue. This is an extension of current leasing models, in which consumers can access the latest technology without high up-front costs. With new ownership models, the manufacturer has an incentive to ensure that all resources are used optimally over a device’s lifecycle.
Generally talking about this type of waste will create new line of work-force, will bring new ideas to re-use the old stuff with new touch and tech. In addition, when I recall my childhood memories I could only think about those days when I sold some old silver lamps to a scraper and bought some dry-dates weighted 300g. And the following week we encountered with electricity breakdown and I received punishment from my mom.