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Lowering e-waste begins with purchasing decisions

Julie Lord

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Every year, 20 to 50 million tons of e-waste is generated on a global basis, and this problem only seems to be getting worse. Electronic and electrical items need to be disposed of in a safe manner, as they can cause significant damage to environmental health, not to mention human health. This is because the likes of lead and mercury leak into the environment, which poses a huge threat to everything and everyone in the surrounding area. This is a massive problem in developing nations, in particular, as locals search through the landfills to try and find goods of any value so they can make money for their families.

A lot of work is being done to educate people on the correct methods to use when disposing of such gadgets, be it a mobile phone, television, refrigerator, or something different. It is believed that one of the main reasons why e-waste is such a problem is because there is a lack of knowledge about it. Thus, companies and organisations are going to great lengths to emphasise the need to recycle such items and to use the services of professional e-waste recyclers. However, a lot of experts agree that our education does not only need to be focused on this side of things. In fact, reducing e-waste begins way before a broken or outdated item surfaces.

One area that we need to concentrate on is changing the way in which we purchase electronic and electrical items. Of course, it is ridiculous to say that we can ensure everyone only buys new gadgets when theirs break, and so on and so forth. However, we can educate people on some of the different approaches they have when purchasing – approaches that will not only help reduce environmental pollution, but will present them with some good benefits too. This includes the likes of upgrading software or hardware instead of investing in new devices. Another option is to donate or sell old electronics that still work. This creates a market for second-hand items, and gives others the ability to buy second-hand electronics at a cheaper price. Thus, this ensures fewer items are being dumped in landfills, and it also enables metals and such like to be reused instead of new products being created.

Altering the purchasing decisions of consumers does not only need to be viewed with the individual consumer in mind. It also needs to be considered in regards to businesses, who use a lot of electronic and electrical equipment, including fax machines, printers, and computers. When businesses and organisations invest in such equipment, they do not often consider the end-of-life disposition and the WEEE Regulations in place. This is something we need to work on. We need to encourage asset managers to practice responsible recycling, such as the appointment of computer recycling in London companies and we need to encourage agents to incorporate end-of-life decisions in their purchasing process. If companies were to simply upgrade their purchasing policies to incorporate this, we would see a huge difference.

All things considered, one of the steps we need to take to combat e-waste is undoubtedly education, and this can take many different forms. Not only do we need to inform people of the best recycling methods, but also we must get them to consider their purchasing decisions to begin with.


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