Reduce E-Waste: Sustainability for Old, Functional Gadgets

Part of a series on Electronic Waste. Visit the main article on E-Waste for futher reading.

By the team at ipad-recycle

Everyone asks these questions frequently: What device should I upgrade to? What new features will I get? What new device should I buy?

But do you know which question doesn’t get asked a lot?

What’ll happen to my old gadget once I stop using it? – a question the world doesn’t spend nearly enough time being thought about, but it should. We should all be mindful of how to reduce e-waste.

The World Economic Forum calculated that about 57.4 million tonnes of electronic waste would be discarded in 2021 alone. If put to perspective, that’s heavier than the great wall of China. It’s predicted to double by 2030.

Millions of tonnes are hoarded in boxes, cupboards, or attics of homes serving no purpose – eventually, they are also thrown away.

Gadgets constantly disappear from everyday use. It’s almost faster than needed because of the rapid upgrade cycle. Millions of smartphones, laptops, and tablets are turned off for the last time when they’re two years old. Thanks to continuous upgrades and marketing from tech companies, keeping up with the times is necessary.

While recycling more plastic, paper, and glass than ever before – electronics aren’t that much of a priority – and repair and reuse have become obsolete concepts.

So, are you thinking about buying a new phone or laptop? Here are a few things you should keep in mind before your significant upgrade, eco-friendly tips you can do before you purchase and green tips on what to do with your old device after the purchase.

Let’s get started.

Why You Should Consume Technology More Mindfully

You have to upgrade to keep up with the times. It’s inevitable. You can minimise how frequently you do it because these are bad for the environment and are, indirectly, ethically wrong.

The ethical problems begin before you’ve even touched the device – the raw materials.

Your iPhone and other devices require many precious metals. Many conflicts over mining regions, modern slavery, and child labour remain rampant in acquiring these metals.

But the ethical problems don’t end even after you’ve turned off your device for good.

These discarded devices get sent to developing countries to dismantle and sort the recycling materials. And we all know how good the worker safety regulations are in the countries doing the recycling, right?

So frequently changing devices is not only harmful to the planet but also the people – in more ways than you realise.

Reduce E-Waste: Mobile phone in the air above a hand before the Eiffel Tower
Tips to Reduce E-Waste: Photo by Ilias Chebbi on Unsplash

Sustainability Tips For Your Functional Gadgets

You can’t always keep using the same phone, but you must understand when to replace it and what to do with it. That is how you can increase the sustainability of your gadgets.

Here are some eco-friendly things you can do to reduce e-waste created, reduce your carbon footprint, and reduce the number of electronic devices being made.

  1. Buy Less

Before sustainability, reusing, recycling comes – reducing purchases. You need to adopt a slow-sustainable technology mindset. Prevention is better than cure. Buy only what you need. Redefine your meaning of need.

You don’t NEED to replace your last year’s phone so that your battery life increases by an hour. You NEED to replace the computer that crashes every time you click space.

 You’ll be saving money and reducing waste.

  1. Repair What’s Repairable

Many repair companies are out there – some even offer it for free – under warranty.

Don’t give up on a gadget that isn’t wholly functional – a minor repair could quickly solve the problem and bring your phone back good as new for another two years. This simple fix could not only reduce e-waste, but also keep your wallet full and stop a landfill from turning full.

  1. Recycle What’s Irreparable

If it can’t be repaired, dispose of it properly. The impact of recycling can’t be stressed enough. Recycling a million laptops would recover enough materials that can be used to supply electricity to 3,657 U.S. homes for an entire year.

So, send your old devices to the recycling centre to do your part, and they’ll do their part – by taking apart the parts.

  1. Buy Better

When you’ve finally reached the point of buying, research thoroughly and buy quality products that’ll serve you for years, it’s about buying less and saving more in the long term.

A simple example would be, would you instead buy a $500 toaster that’ll last ten years or a $100 toaster that you’ll need to replace every year. 

  1. Buy Refurbished Devices

In cases with smartphones and laptops, many people replace them after a year with the newer models. But the models aren’t that bad. Refurbished devices have been thoroughly checked, their problems have been fixed, and the defective parts replaced.

You can buy refurbished iPhones for a much lower price while getting almost the same level of performance.

  1. Sell It

In most cases, your outdated device still works and can serve someone. You could sell an iPad for cash online. Many people are willing to buy second-hand devices for lower prices. You can get extra cash, and someone will stop buying a new electronic device.

To reduce e-waste, you can bring it to an electronics shop. They accept old and even nonfunctioning devices. They’ll use many of the old parts for repairs.

  1. Exchange It For A New One

Many tech companies also have tech exchange programs to save the environment. When buying a newer gadget model, you can get discounts by bringing your old device to the same company. These are especially popular with phones and tablets.

So, as another way to reduce e-waste, find out if a company has such an exchange program before throwing away your outdated phones.

  1. Give It To Charity

Another way to kill two birds with one stone is to give your old electronic appliance to charity. You can clean your home, help the planet, and help someone out — your old headphones, speakers, blenders, etcs.

Many organisations have donation programs that will give new life to your old devices by giving them to people who need them.

  1. E-Waste Recycling Programs

As the need to throw away hoarded smart devices increases, a common problem is getting rid of confidential data.

That’s where E-waste recycling programs come in. Certified recyclers know how to dispose of devices by following environmental laws and waste regulations. In contrast, causing the least harm to the environment and knows how to wipe essential data completely. It’s incredibly convenient for businesses and large organisations with many devices to get rid of, and can form a single way to reduce e-waste.

Check local government institutions, schools, or universities – they usually have a day and place for eco-friendly citizens who want to recycle their old gadgets and parts.

  1. Repurpose Your Devices

When your devices have slowed down to an extent, but you don’t feel like using them anymore, instead of throwing them away – the creative green idea is to repurpose them. Here are a few examples

  • Extend your phone’s life for a few years by turning it into a remote. Countless apps allow you to turn your touch screen phone into a remote control for your television or air conditioner.
  • Technology moves so fast that sometimes a gadget just can’t keep up. Make it do what it was meant to – turn an MP3 player into your car stereo. You won’t be forced to listen to radio programs, and your music won’t get cut every time you get a call.
  • Don’t know what to do with your old tablet biting the dust? Why not download Remote Droid and transform it into a wireless mouse or keyboard – or better yet, a touchpad
  • Watering a keyboard might sound insane, but what if you use it to make a fantastic little garden bed. You can transform anything from CDs, TVs, or toasters. Don’t let dead tech stop you.
  1. Buy Ethically

When buying electronic products, see if they’re sustainability-minded brands or not.

Look at their manufacturing policies – do they transparently disclose them? Or are they trying to hide something?

Look at how their products – do they have certifications like Fair Trade that ensure ethical practice? Do they use energy-saving manufacturing techniques? Offer Warranties? Have repair options? Etc.

What Devices Can You Recycle

The good news is most tech devices can be recycled. You just need some research. So, don’t throw them out just yet.

The good news is most of your tech devices can be recycled. You just have to take some time to do your research. Don’t just throw your gadgets in the garbage!

  • Laptops
  • Televisions
  • Cameras
  • Game consoles
  • Phones
  • Routers
  • Tablets
  • Cables
  • Chargers
  • Speakers
  • Headphones
  • Wearable gadgets
  • Camcorders
  • Earbuds
  • Appliances include refrigerators, blenders, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, heaters, air conditioners, dryers, ovens, stoves, coffee makers, etc.

To Wrap It Up: Why We Should Reduce E-Waste

In the last 100 years, technology has brought us further than the previous 1000 years. It has brought revolutionary change that needs no stating.

However, it doesn’t negate the damage it has caused to the environment. The following 100 years won’t be so smooth if we continue treading down this path. It might spell our doom as we know it.

The first step you can take in stopping this is to reduce the harm that creating more electronic devices will bring. So, stop frequently changing devices and increase their sustainability.

Technology has brought many wonders for us. Let it not destroy us.