E-waste is now the world’s fastest growing waste stream. In 2010, disposal of computers, phones, laptops and other consumer electronics amounted to 33.8 million metric tons of e-waste. Since then, the amount of e-waste has skyrocketed, reaching 50 million metric tons last year. That’s an increase of 48 percent! And this trend is showing no signs of slowing down. All of this waste is posing problems for governments and recycling centres around the globe, but one promising solution is to increase our urban mining efforts.
Why The Surge In E-Waste?
Taking a global perspective on the matter makes it easy to see why there’s been such a drastic increase in e-waste:
- The world’s population has gone up by over half a billion people since 2010
- An increase in the middle-class population has increased discretionary income
- Falling prices of electronics make products more affordable
- Planned obsolescence by electronic companies promotes upgrading and replacing products
- Technology is becoming more and more a part of our daily lives
- Today there are 7.7 billion mobile phone subscriptions and 3.6 billion people are online in some form
Analysts predict a steady growth in e-waste, reaching 52.2 million metric tons in 2021.
The Problem With E-Waste
Electronics play host to a range of metals, from valuable gold to toxic mercury. Currently, large amounts of e-waste are sent to landfills and buried, where toxic metals can leach into groundwater and contaminate the soil. Unfortunately, only 20% of this waste is sent to recycling centres. To make matters worse, some recycling centres have a facade of being eco-friendly, yet ship the e-waste to developing nations where workers burn plastics and handle the waste without any sort of personal protection, not even a mask.
Urban Mining Finds Value In E-Waste
A potential solution for the growing e-waste problem is to use urban mining. This is the process of recovering compounds and elements from used products, buildings, and waste. Since our electronics are chock full of reusable metals, we can break the waste down, recover the metals, and use them to make new products.
It’s estimated that in 2016, $64.6 billion dollars worth of recoverable material was lost to landfills and incinerators. The gold alone in this buried e-waste treasure trove would have amounted to over 10% of the gold mined globally that year. That’s 311 metric tons of gold lost to landfills!
Sepro Urban Mining has worked closely with e-waste recyclers to develop innovative processes which recover valuable metals from e-waste sources. The metal concentrates can be sold directly to refiners while generating a clean waste stream that is free of toxic chemicals. For more information about urban mining or our e-waste solutions, contact Sepro Urban Mining.