Building a digital economy has loads of benefits for the environment. We already have the ability to create tech solutions that solve environmental issues by improving resource efficiency or reducing the effects of damage done so far, but there is a byproduct that is not so great.
Ewaste, or electronic waste. Those Apple Macs of days gone by, the first generation iPhones, inkjet printers, TVs, chargers, and batteries that no longer hold a charge; every one of the electronic items we retire goes somewhere. When we throw them ‘away’ we need to acknowledge that ‘away’ is still a place, and often that place is a landfill site. Once in these landfill sites our old keyboards and servers slowly oxidise, become sun bleached, and eventually break down. Unfortunately for us, they are often full of heavy metals and not-so-great substances that will slowly leach into the earth below.
There is an answer to our ewaste problem, and it lies in recycling.
In a recent UN report, New Zealand was slammed for our official ewaste recycling collection rate of ‘0%’ in 2016. We have no nationally funded ewaste collection and recycling programme, and many Kiwis don’t know that recycling old electronics is even an option. If we don’t recycle our old electronics not only are we adding to our well above average per capita landfill contributions, we are also throwing away valuable resources. Gold, silver and palladium are used in the production of many modern circuit boards, and yet we throw tonnes of them into the tip. A quick Google search will help you find your closest ewaste recycler, and there are plenty of companies like Mint Innovation and Remarkit Solutions who have realised this is a potential money maker as well as being the right thing to do for our planet.
As companies working in the digital technology field, we need to take responsibility for our contributions to ewaste. Next time a laptop gives up, or you upgrade your clunky old printer make sure that you take the time to find your local recycler and give those resources a second chance.
Here are just the top Google results for some big centres around New Zealand –
ewaste.org.nz – Auckland (there are more!)
Southern Landfill – Wellington (there are more here too!)
It’s so important to think about the whole lifecycle of our electronics, and recycling is a great way to retire them in a way that will still be good for the planet.