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Electronic waste at a collection center for recycling.
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E-Waste is Growing Rapidly

 by Jack McLellan,

Electronic Waste is Growing Five Times Faster than E-Waste Recycling

Electronics are everywhere, and they’re not going away anytime soon. And with new tech releases every year, we’re constantly swapping old phones, computers, TVs, and more for the latest model. Because technology is evolving rapidly, the unfortunate result is an overwhelming amount of electronic waste (e-waste) with nowhere to go. According to a report by the United Nations, in 2022 alone, 62 million tons of e-waste were generated, and we’re estimated to hit 82 million tons per year by 2030 if we stay on our current path.

Unfortunately, as e-waste continues to grow, the electronic waste recycling industry is struggling to keep up. Only 22.3% of e-waste was documented as properly collected and recycled in 2022. The rest goes to landfills and undocumented facilities or is left unaccounted for. What doesn’t get reused eventually pollutes our planet.

Why E-Waste is a Problem

All kinds of waste are growing globally, but electronic waste is particularly concerning due to the toxic nature of certain electronic parts. Circuit boards and other components contain precious metals like lead and mercury, and many contain chemicals like flame retardants. These minerals and chemicals will eventually seep into the ground and nearby waterways.

Other minerals like gold are also used to build electronics. E-waste is typically melted to recover these valuable minerals. However, when done improperly, melted e-waste pollutes the air with the same toxic chemicals. Proper e-waste recycling procedures should be established and adhered to, and domestic e-waste facilities should be better supported.

What Can We Do?

On an individual level, there’s only so much we can do. Stop buying a new phone or TV every year; buy refurbished and repaired electronics rather than entirely replacing them. Raising awareness of the harm e-waste creates is one way. However, unless there is policy and infrastructure to back up the awareness, people can recycle 100% of their electronics and still end up with overflowing landfills.

EPR laws that fine technology companies for producing excess e-waste or right-to-repair laws that make it easier for consumers to repair personal electronics instead of disposing of them could also mitigate the amount of e-waste generated.

Better support for recycling companies is needed to fix a large portion of the e-waste problem. Funding more e-waste recycling infrastructure and equipment development is a great way to reduce electronic waste. Currently, the U.S. needs better infrastructure to handle the amount of e-waste we generate every year properly. Supporting developing and existing e-waste companies through tax breaks, grants, subsidies, and more could offset the costs of managing and starting more electronic waste disposal facilities.

The Future of E-Waste Recycling

While we’re falling behind on e-waste recycling, there is still hope for recovery. The same U.N. report estimated that raising the e-waste collection rate to 60% by 2030 would benefit people by improving living conditions, reducing the health risks associated with electronic waste, and generating more than $38 billion USD in cost savings.

When building an e-waste recycling facility, you’ll need top-of-the-line equipment to handle it efficiently and safely. General Kinematics develops e-waste recycling equipment to help recycling companies reach their recovery goals. Contact us, and we’ll help you get ahead of the e-waste curve.

Jack McLellan

Marketing Coordinator

Jack specializes in creating compelling digital marketing content such as social media, blog posts, newsletters, and more. He works with General Kinematics industry experts to develop educational content for the foundry, recycling, mining, and aggregate industries.