E-waste has become a major environmental issue across the world. Fuelled by advancements in digital technology, higher processing power, sleeker designs, increased affordability and higher discard rates, more and more consumers today are trashing old gadgets for new ones, adding to the already huge toxic pile of electronic junk. According to a 2010 UNEP report titled “Recycling – From E-waste to Resources”, globally, electronic waste generation is rising by about 40 million tons every year. And most of the world’s e-junk almost invariably ends up in third world developing nations like China, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ghana, and Brazil, where regulations are lax and often there’s no proper infrastructure to process this e-waste. The report also estimated that in India, e-waste from computers alone would jump by 500% over 2007 levels by 2020. By the same time, computer waste in China is expected to rise by about 200-400%. In order to combat the e-waste issue, environmentally sound recycling processes need to be adopted. While it may take still take some time to bring such eco-friendly recycling techniques into the mainstream, adoption of green electronics by consumers can also help curb the environmental pollution caused by electronic junk.
What are Green Electronics?
Electronics that are designed to have low or no adverse impact on the environment are considered to be green electronics. Such electronics tend to have higher energy efficiency, their production methods are cleaner, and don’t involve the usage of hazardous chemicals. This type of electronic products includes a wide range, right from TVs, computers, and gaming systems to ACs and washing machines. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits associated with green electronics and how they can help curb e-waste generation:
- Eco-friendly: These electronics are manufactured by using fewer natural resources and are often made from easily recyclable materials. Besides, their manufacture does not involve environmentally harmful production methods and make use of higher quantities of recycled content, which helps to reduce the demand for virgin raw materials that would otherwise have to be sourced through energy intensive processes. Also green electronics are designed to be easily repairable, which further adds to their life span, thereby helping reduce e-waste generation and its environmental impact.
- Lowers Health Hazards: They are designed such that they can be easily upgraded, disposed of and recycled in an environmentally responsible manner, without causing harm to the environment. Also, since their manufacture doesn’t involve the usage of harmful chemicals, it helps lower health hazards that would have been caused by the electronic waste generated once it reaches the end of its life.
- Cost Effective: These types of electronic products tend to be more cost-effective in the long term. Although initially more expensive than regular electronics, green electronics offer considerable savings over the long run, as they consume less energy because of higher efficiency, have longer life spans and often have higher resale values.
Opting for green electronics can help curb the problem of electronic waste significantly and even conserve energy to a great extent. However, the search for such eco-friendly electronics may take a little extra effort and awareness.
Tips on Buying Green Electronics and Cutting Down E-waste
Here are some tips and pointers on what to look for when you are to out to buy green electronics:
- Look for the “Energy Star” mark to identify energy saving electronic devices. Energy Star is an international standard for energy efficient consumer products. Devices carrying the Energy Star service mark consume less energy as compared to regular electronics and can result in substantial energy savings.
- Choose products that feature modular designs, which allow for hassle free installation, and easy upgrades for memory and hardware.
- Try and avoid products that require special tools for dismantling and repair.
- Check if the product uses replaceable parts that are easily available from the product manufacturer or retailers.
- Make sure that the product doesn’t have any components that are glued to it, as it causes hindrance in proper dismantling of the product during recycling.
- Opt for electronics that have minimum usage of different types of material. Products containing too many different types of materials are more difficult and time-consuming to sort prior to recycling.
- Check whether the screws and fasteners used in the product are made using the same type of material as the parent part, so that they can be easily recycled together.
- Try and avoid electronics that contain foam, coatings, or paint as these can contaminate other parts and restrict recycling.
- Opt for electronics that feature internationally recognized symbols for coding plastic parts to allow for easy sorting.
- Look for products that have easily removable plastic housings to allow for easy dismantling during recycling.
- Finally, check whether the product can be easily recycled and whether the manufacturer offers take back programs for end of life electronics.
Keep these tips in mind when looking for the right green electronic product. You could also consider extending the life of your older electronics by upgrading it and replacing old parts, rather than purchasing a new one. And if you really must buy a new product you should ensure that the product you purchase is ‘green’ while making sure that you recycle the product you are replacing in an eco-friendly manner with registered recyclers like Attero.
A NASA recognized technology innovator and India’s largest electronics asset management company, Attero has developed clean technology for recycling e-waste in an environmentally responsible and safe manner. Since its inception, Attero has been leveraging technology for social and environmental benefits, and working to ensure a safer and more sustainable future for the planet. For more information on how and where to recycle your electronic waste in an eco-friendly manner visit www.attero.in.