The current e-waste situation:
First, it is important to have a working definition of e-waste, which, and per the European Commission, is considered waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) such as computers, television, refrigerators, and cell phones that all, when not properly disposed of, can cause major environmental and health problems.
Put another way, e-waste is any end-of-life electronic good (i.e., temperature exchange equipment, screen-based items, lamps, lightbulbs, large equipment like washing machines, small equipment to include microwaves, and small IT equipment like Global Positioning Systems (GPS)) that are discarded, donated, or given to a recycler so as to be salvaged as scrap by those employed within this sector in importing countries.
What then, is the big deal? you may be wondering.
You did your due diligence, right? You took that old copier to the recycling point and, in so doing, provided jobs and means for an income to someone in a developing nation as they stripped away the estimated €55B worth of copper and gold still left in the discarded junk.
Sadly, you would be mistaken given that most recyclers, as was proofed out in a data-driven, GPS-guided study conducted in 2017, simply offloaded the largely plastic-based (read: worthless and outdated) items to landfills in Ghana, Nigeria, and Thailand.
What’s more, and potentially worse, is this has been a known issue for decades with crisis-inducing statistics having been kept and monitored by the likes of the Environmental Protection Agency, the United Nations (UN), and numerous action groups.
The tipping point, however, now seems to be the direct causal link to increases in cancer in those living and working in landfills in Asia and Africa on account of the dangerous levels of dioxins, which have completely saturated the food chain with eggs and meat no longer safe for consumption.
So, how do we (yes, you and I included) stop killing our future customers when it comes to reverse logistics, recycling, and restoring the food chain? Easy—design it into the process so that garbage flows out.