Friday, November 12, 2021

Who Is Responsible For Tech Waste?

There’s a sad truth. We are a throw-away society. Harsh, I know. Taking a hard look at where waste goes and what it does is intense. Have you tried it? From your candy wrapper to your vacuum and everything in between, it adds up. 

Some of us have really been taking a closer look into waste lately, while others really don’t want to see it. And who could blame them? Knowing that waste is compromising the planet, animals, and ourselves is a challenging and uncomfortable reality. 

When it comes to tech, we are always looking for the newest, most up-to-date technology, and we want it now. After all, new tech is sleek, beautiful, and does amazing things to improve our lives. It’s better, faster, and bigger, in smaller packages, and ultimately it makes our lives easier. 

But what happens when tech items become obsolete? What happens when they break? A LOT of materials went into making these items, and throwing them away into landfills isn’t a solution and is often dangerous for you, the earth, and our water supply. So who is responsible for E-waste, and what are the solutions? As with any type of waste in this world, the solution is a combined one, and of course, not easy. 


If you think you should just throw your old phone into the trash, think again. Most companies allow you to bring your old phone or device into their store. Not only will they make sure that your device is correctly disposed of, whether it’s recycled, broken down, or refurbished, they’ll also make sure your device is wiped clean of your information, further protecting your personal information. Can this be done with your old Roomba that the dog chewed up? A better question might be: are you asking companies what they do with their old or damaged tech products? Suppose that company really doesn’t do anything and tells you to throw it away. In that case, you are, at the very least, subtly reminding them that they also have a responsibility to properly manage their waste and that people are paying attention. You, as the consumer, have the responsibility to question the waste practices of businesses and have the ability to spend your money with companies who take it seriously. That’s a lot of power. 


As mentioned, many companies should be taking back waste to be handled appropriately, but what does that look like? Do they store it in some major warehouse, to be forgotten completely? Hopefully not, but they do have work to do. Waste management isn’t just finding a place to dump your trash. It’s “management.” Therefore companies should be looking at how they can reuse and repurpose old or broken tech into new tech. Is their trash another company’s treasure? Gold is a part of the cool gadgets in your hands, and others have taken it and turned it into jewelry. And the materials that are used to create your next laptop. It should be common knowledge by now that plastic isn’t as easy to recycle. If a company can forgo an unsustainable material in their tech’s design, they should. And while

being carbon neutral should be everyone’s goal. Carbon neutrality does not make up for the massive amounts of waste that their products are producing. 


While I am sure many companies do not want the government meddling in their affairs, who else would be able to hold businesses accountable if they continue to generate massive amounts of dangerous E-waste? Huge companies get their products to the masses, but that means a ton of materials that will eventually be discarded. If tech companies are required to change what they use to create their products, the downstream effects will be more sustainable in the long run. That also means that governments actually have to care about it. 

Ultimately, individuals, companies, and governments are all intertwined in their responsibility for e-waste management. After all, individuals elect representatives in their government and individuals who choose where they spend their money. If all three entities are working together, we may be able to find a way out of the proverbial rubble, but it will take time and effort. Suppose we can eventually create a sustainable economy in all facets of waste. In that case, we can address cleaning up the mess we’ve made, and the future will look wonderful for the generations to come.