How e-waste affects us all

During the gold rush of the 1800’s, people dedicated their lives to panning for that elusive treasure, gold. Today, there are much easier ways to find precious metals and believe it or not, some of them are not a million miles away from you right now, hidden within the very device that you are reading this article on.

Previous metals in your discarded PC

Yes, discarded electrical devises are a treasure trove of stored precious metals that include gold, silver and platinum. To put this into some kind of perspective; to mine one gram of gold, most companies will have to move a tone of ore. However you can find the same amount of gold in 41 mobile phones! In fact, according to a report by the United Nations Environment Program, (UNEP) around 40 million tons worth of electronics end up in the rubbish annually. A missed opportunity indeed when you think that mines with a high success rate such as the Kalgold mine in South Africa, have been overshadowed by the mountain of the worlds rubbish tips which contained millions of computer circuit boards that yielded 250 grams of gold per ton, making it 50 times better than Kalgold.
However, this modern day ‘panning for gold’ so to speak, isn’t merely about financial gain. Recycling these materials properly actually assists in preserving the earth’s stocks of raw materials with the yield being far greater than that of traditional mines. It also has an overall positive impact on both the environment and its inhabitants.

Urban mining

Although between 7% and 10% of the world’s gold and 30% of the silver produced goes into electronics, only 15% of the 50 million tons of e-waste created globally each year undergoes any recycling. Instead, the vast majority of devices are dumped in landfills or exported to countries where e-waste is hand-picked over fires by entire communities, including children.

A good example of just how overwhelming this situation is, can be seen in the city of Guiyu, China which is widely considered the world’s ‘e-waste capital’. They have the highest-ever recorded level of dioxins, and 90% of its residents have neurological damage. Worryingly, the city receives some 4,000 tons of electronic waste per hour! In america too, e-waste represents 2% of the countries rubbish in landfills, however it equals to a staggering 70% of overall toxic waste! The extreme amount of lead in these electronics alone causes damage in the central and peripheral nervous systems, the blood and the kidneys – A scary thought when you consider that 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed worldwide every year.

However, a new ground breaking venture in Osceola, Arkansas is set to buck this trend. Backed by $35 million finance, the California-based startup company ‘BlueOak Resources’, is building a brand-new facility in this city to create what it calls the nation’s first “urban mining” refinery dedicated to recovering valuable metals such as gold, silver, copper and palladium from the growing mountains of e-waste currently threatening to overwhelm the planet.

The WEEE directive

Here in the UK we are regulated by EU legislation such as the WEEE directive, which stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, which was adopted in 2007 and has done much to reduce the amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment that ends up in the worlds landfills. The WEEE directive was designed to make manufacturers and importers (the ‘producer’) responsible for the cost of disposal of redundant equipment. The Directive sets targets for recovery and recycling across ten categories of products, increasing over the first few years of implementation.

Our Environmental Policy at Recycle IT 4U

By the very nature of our business, here at Recycle IT 4U we aim to play our part with an overall positive impact on the environment and those living on it, by preventing as much WEEE waste as possible going to landfill by adopting ethical principles such as;

  • Complying with all applicable legislation, regulations and codes of practice.
  • Addressing and continuously improving the company’s environmental performance.
  • Preventing pollution wherever possible and ensuring that we recycle everything wherever practical and appropriate.
  • Ensuring environmental issues are considered in the introduction of new processes, services or facilities.
  • Providing support and information to staff with respect to environmental matters.
  • Monitoring and reviewing our environmental performance.
  • Ensure our suppliers have a sustainable approach and good ethical best practices where possible.

We cant change the world, but we can all play a part in making it a more habitable place for everyone.