The Gravity of Recycling E-waste

Note: Article extracted from here.

We are astonishingly fast in swapping our old devices for the newest on the market. In Singapore alone, almost 60,000 tonnes of electronic waste is discarded yearly. This alarming figure is the equivalent of each individual person disposing of 70 phones every year. Electronic waste includes our laptops, tablets, televisions and more. These items are most often carelessly thrown away, rather than being reused or recycled. It is time to mend our frivolous ways.

Singapore has taken initiatives to improve the recycling of our electronic waste. A management system for waste was established in 2021, as part of the Extended Producer Responsibility Framework. The framework holds the producers of the electronic equipment responsible for the collection and treatment of its waste. Since producers are held accountable for carrying out the disposal of their devices, they are incentivized to innovate their product design towards becoming more efficient in accommodating recycling. The retailers will act as touch points to ensure the devices are sent to the official recycling plants at the end of their tenure. Retailers like StarHub, Singtel, IKEA and more have already started recycling programmes, for more convenient collection of electronic waste.

People should be more cautious of the amount of electronic devices they dispose of. Firstly, to reduce the size of one's carbon footprint, it is quintessential to buy only the devices that are needed. Unnecessary upgrades every few months generate colossal amounts of waste. Secondly, it is important to repair electronic devices instead of replacing them. Although repairs are time consuming, the environment will thank you for it. Finally, you must donate your old devices so they can be reused or properly recycled in the correct facilities.

It is crucial that electronic waste is recycled properly. Electronic waste is composed of rare materials like silver and gold, which can be extracted and reused. When the waste is incinerated, there is not only a significant loss of resources, but the resulting carbon emissions also contribute heavily to the greenhouse effect. A portion of the hazardous heavy metals present in the incineration ash are also released into the atmosphere, generating substantial health risks. Our devices also contain toxic substances, like lead and cadmium, which often seep into our soil and waterbeds. These pollutants cause great harm to the health of the surrounding populations and the environment as a whole, if the disposal process is not managed the right way.

Clean Urban Mining, part of the Clean Earth Technologies Group, has an innovative solution for harvesting valuable materials such as gold and copper, from e-waste. The solution is non-toxic in place of cyanide and strong acids, to extract high value metals.

Using Clean Urban Mining’s non-toxic solution creates a circular economy for e-waste. Recycling high value resources from existing equipment creates reusable components for the manufacture of new devices, cutting the cost of feedstock and disposal at both ends of the supply chain.