How many cell phones have you owned over the last year? Laptops, tvs, and tablets? Technology now develops at a much quicker rate than we’ve ever seen, and with these rapid innovations more and more e-waste is being produced. Current estimates suggest 20-50 million of tons of e-waste are produced each year (more facts here), and current projections for 2017 are on the high end of that scale. Even though e-waste is only 2% of our landfills it makes up 70% of current toxic waste.
Too add to the problem, e-waste is frequently exported to countries with long histories of Western Colonialism (good intro article here). These sites, frequently in places with lower levels of over-site and regulation, are hazardous and create frequent fire potentials. (Policy wienies wanting more in depth analysis can go here.)
At the individual level though, there are still important things we can do to be responsible electronic consumers. First, recycle properly where you can. Find a local store that will take your electronics or better yet, return it to the original manufacturer. Second, know which companies to support by looking at this Greenpeace guide to greener electronic companies. Following these simple steps are first part of being an ethical consumer in today’s digital world.