From the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games to local initiatives like reBOOT Canada, there are a bounty of creative ways we can give our electronic devices a new purpose instead of contributing to the 45 million metric tonnes of e-waste produced annually.
The first step to creating less e-waste is limiting our electronic devices to an as-needed basis before turning to ways of recycling functional devices and replacing them with the latest and greatest products. While the concept of owning new gadgets can be enticing, manufacturing the device accounts for the majority of ecological and societal harm throughout the product’s life cycle. By making a collective effort to reduce our consumption habits, tech corporations will be influenced to adjust accordingly, thereby reducing emissions and ethical violations that are a consequence of mining and manufacturing these devices.
There are plenty of neat initiatives surfacing around fixing hardware and software issues with your devices before turning to the option of buying a new one. For example, The Restart Project helps people learn how to repair their broken electronics and rethink how they consume them in the first place. Here are some tips on how to keep your smartphone running, thanks to The Restart Project:
- Short battery life? Reduce unnecessary notifications, screen brightness, unused apps. Consider replacing the battery.
- Headphones not working? Check the audio port for any dust blocking it and gently remove it with a toothpick.
- Phone running slowly? Back up your data, free space on device, re-set it completely and reinstall apps.
When you are faced with the inevitable need to buy a new electronic device, one tip is to factor in the company’s commitment to reducing their environmental impact. Greenpeace created the Guide to Greener Electronics for this exact purpose. Here are their top 5 companies when factoring in energy use, resource consumption, and chemical elimination:
- Fairphone (Overall grade: B, Energy: B, Resources: A-, Chemicals: B-)
- Apple (Overall grade: B-, Energy: A-, Resources: C, Chemicals: B)
- HP (Overall grade: C+, Energy: B, Resources: B-, Chemicals: C+)
- Dell (Overall grade: C+, Energy: C+, Resources B-, Chemicals C+)
- Lenovo (Overall grade C-, Energy: C, Resources: C, Chemicals: D)
When you buy a new phone, instead of storing the old one in a drawer for a few years and eventually throwing it out as e-waste, let’s explore some options for giving that device new life.
First, the obvious: donate it. Some options for donating a device are:
- reBoot Canada. No matter the condition of your device, reBoot Canada refurbishes donated electronic equipment to provide non-profits, charities, and individuals with access to subsidized technology, software, and training. You can drop off your devices at one of their 3 Greater Toronto Area locations, and shipping to those sites is available nation-wide.
- Free Geek Toronto: The organization’s goal is to promote social and economic justice, focusing on marginalized populations in the Greater Toronto Area. They accept electronics for reuse, refurbishing, or recycling.
- World Computer Exchange. WCE’s mission is to reduce the digital divide for youth in developing countries and to promote the reuse of electronic equipment and its ultimate disposal in an environmentally responsible manner. You can ship to or drop-off in their Ottawa or Vancouver locations.
The next step: recycle it. Some options for recycling your device are:
- Recycle My Electronics: Electronic Products Recycling Association operates regulated recycling programs in nine provinces across Canada (British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland).
- TerraCycle: You can download a shipping label from their website and send your electronics as a prepaid return ship. TerraCycle also has an online points program, with different donation items giving you different amounts of points that can be redeemed for charitable gifts or donations to a non-profit organization of your choice.
Lastly, today’s daily dose of good news:
Athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will receive medals made from recycled metals. Gold, silver, and bronze are being salvaged from discarded mobile phones and other small electronic devices to form the 5,000 medals that are required.
Since a call for e-waste went out from the Games’ organizing committee in 2017, piles of smartphones, digital cameras, laptops, and handheld games have been donated by members of the Japanese public and by businesses. They’re expected to meet their donation requirement by next month.
What’s your favorite method of giving new life to electronic devices?
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