The impact of e-waste
Today, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is a challenge that is not well understood by the general public. Few of us know what happens to our old phones or refrigerators. We consume and then throw away our electronic devices at a rate that we cannot even keep up with. In France it is estimated that only 45% of our e-waste is collected, while only 17.4% is recycled worldwide.
From production to end-of-life: a far from complete loop.
Smartphones, computers, household appliances, there is a growing awareness of the environmental impact of the production of these electronic devices. It cannot be stressed enough that half of the carbon emissions from the digital sector (representing 4% of global emissions) come from the manufacturing process of these devices.
While the impact of the production of these devices is attracting increasing attention, the challenges surrounding their end-of-life and impact are still poorly understood.
Most of the devices are not collected or are only poorly collected. Despite the progress of legislation on the subject in many countries, the collection and recycling of WEEE is poorly managed on a global scale. Electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream in recent years.
According to the United Nations University/UNITAR Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Monitoring Report (2020), in 2019, more than 53 million tonnes of e-waste were generated (i.e. almost 6 tonnes generated per hour). This trend is accelerating dramatically: we are expected to reach 74 million tonnes of WEEE in 2030, and 120 million tonnes in 2050 – an increase of over 120% compared to 2019.
Of these millions of tonnes of waste, only 17% is collected and recycled. The rest is burned or dumped in landfills. According to the NGO Basel Action Network, at least 6% of electronic waste collected in the European Union and loaded with toxic substances (arsenic, mercury, cadmium, etc.) is illegally exported to West Africa or Asia, where landfills are multiplying. There, workers put their lives at risk by dismantling and burning these devices in order to recover the rare materials, usually for less than the cost of their extraction. These dumps have disastrous consequences for the health of local residents and the environment. It is estimated that the carbon footprint of these electronic dumps is close to 100 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
An under-recognised environmental disaster.
The alarming growth in the production of electronic waste is an issue that we felt it was important to raise awareness about among our customers and consumers. The unbridled consumption of electronic devices (in France, UK, the average lifespan of a smartphone is 2 years) has catastrophic consequences on the environment and health.
To limit this impact, the best solution is to extend the life of devices: either by repairing those we already have, or by choosing refurbished devices which give them a second or even third life.
This is why for each reconditioned device sold on the site we display the electronic waste avoided thanks to reconditioning: we want to draw attention to this impact.
Since the beginning of 2021, we have also been supporting the ERG Foundation, which recycles electronic waste, particularly in Africa. The Foundation develops new recovery channels locally and sends the devices back to Europe for recycling. Since its creation, the ERG Foundation has collected and recycled around 3 million smartphones.
To sum up, the choice of refurbished devices offers two unbeatable advantages for the planet compared to new ones:
By buying refurbished, you are helping to extend the life of the electronic device by giving it a second chance in YOUR hands, instead of seeing the device abandoned in an old drawer, or worse, in an illegal dump.
Furthermore, by supporting the circular economy, you are helping to change the consumption habits around electronic products and discourage their overproduction.
It will always take less energy and raw materials to refurbish an electronic device than to produce it.
That’s why we can’t say it enough: long live our devices!