Why it’s time to declutter your drawer of old tech...
Let’s be honest, we’ve all got a drawer of doom, haven’t we? One of those drawers full of old phones, battered laptops and broken cameras – where gadgets are tossed aside, forgotten and left to gather dust for the rest of time.
But why do we hold onto our old, unused tech in this way? Isn’t it time we opened that dreaded drawer, decluttered and did something good with the contents?
Old tech contributes to e-waste
… and e-waste is a massive environmental issue. 53.6 million tonnes of the stuff was generated worldwide in 2019 and only 17% of this was collected or recycled, according to the Global E-Waste Monitor. Worse still, this mountain of e-waste is expected to grow to 74.7 million tonnes by 2030 – that’s the same weight as a staggering 46.7 million cars.
Sadly, the UK is the world’s second largest producer of e-waste, which it incinerates, sends to landfill or ships overseas to other countries. Estimates suggest that 40% is exported to places that don’t have adequate health and safety measures in place – potentially contaminating food and water supplies, and posing horrific health risks to local communities.
Producing tech takes a toll on our planet
…and contributes to the depletion of finite resources. For instance, many devices require more than 30 elements in their manufacturing process – some of which, like indium and silver, are predicted to run out in the next 100 years. However, we also need these materials to manufacture wind turbines, solar panels, artificial joints and pacemakers. And without them, there’ll be serious consequences for our environment and wellbeing as a society.
Mining for precious metals is equally problematic. For instance, 20% of the gold used in printed circuit boards is produced from artisanal mining, where mercury is used to extract the metal. This exposes miners to mercury vapour, which can harm their nervous system, heart and kidneys.
And that’s not the only danger, according to David Cole-Hamilton, former President of the European Chemical Society. He points out that some elements used in tech production – like gold, tungsten, tantalum and tin – can come from “conflict minerals, which are mined in places where the proceeds of mining are used to fund wars. At the moment, responsible manufacturers use these elements from ethical mines. But as these resources deplete, the pressure will be on to source them from conflict areas. Then, people will have died to put the phone in your pocket.”
Tech contributes to CO2 emissions
… and we need to reduce these emissions fast. To comply with The Paris Agreement, we need to limit our global warming to 1.5℃ compared to pre-industrial levels. But a single phone has a lifetime impact of 76kg of carbon dioxide equivalent – 79% of which is generated in the production phase (1).
It’s sobering to think that if we kept our phones in use for one extra year, we could reduce their CO2 impact by a third. If we did the same with all the phones, laptops, washing machines and vacuum cleaners in Europe, we could save 4 million tonnes of CO2 per year – and make a dramatic difference in the fight against climate change.
Used tech is valuable
...and can be refurbished, resold, re-homed or stripped down to parts and recycled. In fact, it’s reckoned that the average household is sitting on £1,060 of old tech (2) – which means it really is worth your while to declutter!
If everyone played their part, we could save millions of old phones, laptops and other gadgets from going to landfill and contributing to the mountain of e-waste all over the world. We could conserve finite resources and minimise the environmental and human cost of producing technology. And we could build a bigger market for refurbished gadgets and start to consume technology in a better, greener way.
So isn’t it time you cleared out that drawer of doom? Take your old tech to your nearest Spring pod today…
(1) - Average CO2e based on Apple iPhone environmental reports.
(2) - Average value of electronics per customer calculated by multiplying the average value of phones, e-readers and tablets and MacBooks (£53) by the average number of devices per home (20).