This holiday season, InfoSpace invites you to Green Holidays, a festive season of giving with clear motives to reduce e-waste and become a more sustainable planet.

E-Waste in Landfills - Image via

E-Waste in Landfills – Image via

In my first article, Green Holidays – Eco-Friendly Gifts, I listed five practical gifts that were
equally stylish and sustainable. I also shared why buying eco-friendly gifts can go a long way environmentally.

In this second article, I’ll discuss the problem of e-waste from both the business and consumer point of view, based on Wired’s article, “Our E-Waste Problem is Ridiculous, and Gadget Makers Aren’t Helping“.

Currently, our society is on par with the motto, “out with the old, in with the new.” We purchase new smartphones and even purchase new computers on a regular basis. But what happens to all of the old devices? Most of them end up becoming electronic waste, otherwise known as e-waste.

When you receive a new iPhone or Samsung device, you can’t help but quickly forget about your old device and throw it in the trash. Nowadays, it seems that a smartphone only lasts for two years, when a new upgrade is due. For many, devices don’t even last for that long since they are dropped, shattered, or water-damaged.

What most people don’t know is that even if the device doesn’t work, the parts can be easily recycled for use in another device. If these devices are left to pile up in landfills, e-waste builds up, emitting hazardous chemicals into our atmosphere and water. Unfortunately, both consumers and businesses neglect how e-waste can impact our environment.

The Background on E-Waste

According to MarketsandMarkets, around 41.5 million tons of electronic waste were produced in 2011 alone. By 2016, the amount of e-waste is expected to increase to 93.5 million tons. Currently, a staggering 70-80% of old gadgets go straight to landfills to be eroded with the other waste we produce. Think about it; most 20-somethings may have already discarded more than 10 mobile devices, including cellphones, mp3 players, and tablets! If you count the amount of e-waste per person based on that simple assumption, the numbers are enormous.

Apple's "Green Initiatives" - Image via Forbes

Apple’s “Green Initiatives” – Image via Forbes

Business Point of View

To address the problem of e-waste, companies such as Apple and HP have established “green initiatives” to decrease their carbon footprint through a reduction in production waste. More notably, Apple has made significant efforts in changing how their devices are produced.

From lower power consumption to elimination of harmful toxins, Apple appears to be aware of the drastic changes that need to be made. However, if devices aren’t created to last for years, the problem remains the same. More importantly, most companies release new versions of various devices with minor changes almost annually, tempting consumers to ditch their adequate devices and buy the latest technology. Most gadget companies strive for more sales, something that can be easily achieve through new features. However, as companies make their devices smaller, thinner, and lighter to accommodate to consumers, it becomes significantly harder to recycle their parts.

Since most of these devices are created as one whole unit, most times there are virtually no parts to dissemble and reuse. For instance, Apple’s MacBook Air is incredibly light and portable, desirable features for most customers. However, it can be incredibly difficult to repair individual parts, often forcing consumers to buy a whole new device. Businesses clearly face the challenges of responding to the demands of the environment or of the consumers.

Electronic Recycling - Image via

Electronic Recycling – Image via

Information For Consumers

If we continue to purchase new devices each year, what can we do to help this growing problem? Foremost, owners can bring their unwanted or broken devices to their local Electronic Recyclers International (ERI) to ensure that they don’t end up in a landfill. ERI carefully scans each device to extract reusable parts and raw materials. While it is a labor intensive process, it is a necessary eco-friendly step that must be taken to ensure sustainability.

For Syracuse University faculty, staff, and students, Cuse Tech is also available to sell back lightly damaged smartphones, computers, and mp3 players. They also have a recycling option for totally damaged devices. If you receive a new smartphone or tablet this holiday season, please think to recycle your old devices so we can gradually reduce e-waste and change how it impacts our environment. Happy Holidays!