January first, while most of the country—and world, for that matter—was celebrating a fresh new year, China was signing the papers to let us know just how stinky that would be. A turn of the tide that we can only hope will open the eyes of manufacturers, consumers, and businesses to the scandalous amounts of waste our country creates every day.
Waste is an unsustainable problem
We put “sustainable” in our name and mission because we are constantly striving to bring more sustainable outcomes to the technology we as a country use and then toss. And, while e-waste is a huge part of the problems consumers are creating for our world, sustainability goes beyond just electronic waste.
You can see our views on the role of sustainability in a circular economy here. But to sum it up: sustainability is a lifestyle intent on being more efficient with the limited resources we have with a focus on environmental responsibility. Waste is disastrous for the world, and for decades China has openly accepted the vast majority of our garbage.
But its worse than that. In China accepting our waste, the majority of Americans (as well as Canada and most of Europe, too) has no idea the sheer quantity of waste we really create. But all that started to change last month as thousands of pounds of waste that would have set sail for China began piling up on the docks.
Imagine how quickly your home would be overrun by refuse if the garbage truck stopped coming. Now multiply that by all the homes in your state. That’s, in essence, the size of the problem we’re dealing with—a problem China’s been dealing with for over 20 years.
Catastrophic doesn’t come close
To say this problem of waste is awful is a gross (no pun intended) understatement. The response by communities on the coast after just a few days has been overwhelming; likening this event to a massive earthquake rippling across the country.
There are few words powerful enough to encapsulate the severity of this problem we’ve been batting around since the 80s. One can only hope this ban from China is a loud enough wake-up call to change our views on waste.
So, what’s the good news?
Sadly, when it comes to waste, the good news is already passed. Waste is the afterthought of our consumption. Dealing with waste proactively is really the best way to lessen the suffocating load of trash we will shortly be dealing with.
With electronics, we need to have an exit strategy that benefits our conscience as well as our lifestyle. Have a plan for the devices you use—like donating or selling your end-of-life devices—after you’re done with them. But make this plan before you purchase the device in the first place.
Taking this one step further (and why not when the problem is on our doorstep?) would be to purchase a refurbished device instead of the latest and greatest gadget. Waste is not just on the back end of our electronic consumption. The energy and resources needed to create that laptop or tablet in the first place is unbelievably wasteful.
Two out of three ain’t bad
You might have gone through school hearing about the three Rs of environmental responsibility: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Reducing our consumption is an easy first step. Make lists and scrutinize your purchases before you bring things home. With electronics, specifically, buying refurbished reduces the environmental load of your purchase.
Reusing electronics (either through donating, selling, or getting creative), is the second R. This has benefits beyond just not being wasteful. Often, you can gain back a portion of your initial investment when you resell your devices. And when you donate devices, you can benefit on your taxes—and when done right, for even more than what the device itself would have been worth.
But then there’s the third R in the mix that we feel is better left as a last resort. Reducing and reusing are fantastic, but recycling—when it comes to e-waste—is often done too prematurely and incorrectly. True, there are precious materials deep within your devices, but they should only be harvested after the immediate value of a working device has been exhausted.
Your gadgets have more to give
Within nearly every device we’ve rescued from the recycler is another five years or so of valuable use. Sometimes even more. With data-erasure software, Microsoft certification, and a hyper-detailed refurbishing team, many devices that might have been shredded can go on to live lives of worth for different users, essentially doubling or even tripling the return on your initial investment.
By using an ITAD company that cares about the environment, you can also often capture profits back from old or end-of-life equipment. Shredding just creates a pile of metal shavings, and you can’t get much for that. Not only that, but much of the components are actually hazardous waste. So, leaving them in their cases for as long as possible is a good idea.
We’re all in this together
If it wasn’t clear before, this waste ban makes it clear: this garbage issue is going to take all of us. We’ve already tried to push it off to China, and they’ve been considered one of the most wasteful countries in the world. Well, after America, that is. Maybe it’s time we take responsibility for the waste we’ve created.
Leave a comment on our social channels. Do you see this as a big deal? If not, why? What ways do you tackle the waste your business or family creates? We need to be talking about this, since (sooner than any of us wanted) it will be at our door.
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