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Almost 45 Million Tons of E-waste Discarded Last Year (apnews.com) 177

A new study claims 44.7 million metric tons (49.3 million tons) of TV sets, refrigerators, cellphones and other electrical good were discarded last year, with only a fifth recycled to recover the valuable raw materials inside. From a report: The U.N.-backed study published Wednesday calculates that the amount of e-waste thrown away in 2016 included a million tons of chargers alone. The U.S. accounted for 6.3 million metric tons, partly due to the fact that the American market for heavy goods is saturated. The original study can be found here (PDF; Google Drive link).
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Almost 45 Million Tons of E-waste Discarded Last Year

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  • by Bruce66423 ( 1678196 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @12:43PM (#55732219)

    Really? Come on...

    • How else do you inflate the poundage in your numbers.... Ever tried to move a fridge? All that foam insulation is heavy..
    • Really? Come on...

      I'm absolutely shocked that folks are throwing away refrigerators!

      They must be Global Warming Deniers.

      We will soon need all the refrigerators that we can get to fight the Global Warming!

      • The last time I had to get rid of a fridge, it was a nightmare. It may depend on where you live, but recycling centers won't take them, many the appliance stores won't remove the old one when you buy a new one, and you can't take it to the dump. When we shopped for a new fridge, our show-stopping criteria is whether they'd take away the old one. Which reduced one's choices considerably.

        • Next time try Craigslist. Put it in the "free stuff" category. Someone will come and get it within an hour, even if it doesn't work. There are people that make a living picking up broken appliances, repairing them, and then reselling.

          • +1, "free" on Craigslist for anything will mean it is gone by the end of the day. Old broken mattress with a stain and springs poking out the side? Trash doesn't want it, charity can't take it, but some guy will be tying it to the roof of his subcompact with twine in an hour.
            • I did not know this. Thanks to both ShanghaiBill and Gilgaron.

            • by mikael ( 484 )

              They may not want it for their family, but stitch up and fix the torn side, through over a blanket, and it's good enough for dogs.

          • by Shotgun ( 30919 )

            Or...(depending on where you live)
            Put it on the side of the road with a $10 "For Sale" sign on it. Someone will steal it before morning.

    • Computers you can recycle for free. Air conditioners, refrigerators, TVs and old CRT computer monitors you have to pay to get rid of. Which explains why they suddely appear in the middle of the woods, unused creeks, Salvation Army dumpsters and whatever that unknown area is called behind Walmart.

    • a steam powered fridge. Some of us have to make do with the old fashion electric ones.
    • Want to help the environment? Adopt and enforce electronic device quality and life cycle standards. We get stuff that's worth a fuck and less waste.

  • by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @12:46PM (#55732231)

    (1) Buy a used car -- the best car, environmentally -- is one where the energy/materials used in manufacturing have already been spent.
    (2) Keep your appliances 10-20 years, even if less efficient. Buy simple appliances (dishwashers/washers/fridges with dial electromechanical controls that can be easily fixed) so they last you a decade or two.
    (3) Buy an upgradeable computer or laptop -- Lenovo and some Dells are great in this respect. Not stuff like Smurface or iPad that are sealed with glue and where it's barely worth replacing a battery.
    (4) Buy a phone with removable battery and SD-expandable storage. Moto G4 Play and G5 are great. Or just carry a flip phone which will last you 10 years ...
    (5) Buy hardware that doesn't require a cloud service to work correctly. With cloud-mandatory hardware, the manufacturer can pull the rug out after a year or two and you'll have little recourse.

    • In general keep your stuff as longs as possible...
      1. If you were to buy a new car, keep it until you drive it to the ground. Getting a used car is just offsetting someone else who is not fully utilizing their new car.
      2. There isn't point in getting greener appliances every year, but when it is time, get the best one in terms of energy efficiency and good reliability.
      3. Depending on how you use your laptop. The replaceable batteries are often not as efficient as the glued in ones. So you may be tossing ou

      • 3. I've used phones and laptops with both kinds of batteries. There's no major difference in durability.
        5. Except that cloud services don't really work that way. The terminals are more cheaply made and MORE disposable than (say), my Thinkpad X220. And service providers can tell you ... "sorry, G-suite no longer supports Chromebooks older than 2013..." while my laptop with native software keeps on ticking away.

    • If you buy a computer you can upgrade, then you will... throwing out old electronics, so you lost all of the benefit.

      Meanwhile the iPad 2 I bought for my wife at launch in 2011 (!) is still used daily and works fine. Some day I may replace it, but then it can become a digital picture frame.

      She also uses daily my "non upgradable" MacBook Pro 17" from 2010 while many other windows laptops of that vintage are in a scrap heap so how has it hurt to buy a laptop of higher quality that can last a decade or more?

      • A 2011 iPad no longer gets OS updates (AFAIK), and Apple won't give you old versions of previously-installed apps through App Store. You need to jump through silly hoops like downloading the app in iTunes first, which flags it as downloaded, whereupon Apple will push an old version to the iPad to "reinstall."

        2010 MacBook Pros are highly upgradeable and repairable and use standard parts compared to the post-2013 junk that Apple foisted on the public. Many fanbois don't know how bad recent Apple hardware ha

        • A 2011 iPad no longer gets OS updates (AFAIK), and Apple won't give you old versions of previously-installed apps through App Store. You need to jump through silly hoops like downloading the app in iTunes first, which flags it as downloaded, whereupon Apple will push an old version to the iPad to "reinstall."

          It doesn't get OS updates at this point (did for years) but who cares? It still browses. It still runs Netflix. It still runs the apps that it has just fine. It will BTW show you the last version of

          • Maybe something changed about the App Store recently -- Apple used to be really difficult about installing the last-compatible app version.

            You were lucky with your MacBooks, that you bought exactly the spec that you need and nothing failed. I'd rather have a reliable device that's also repairable.

  • They're probably responsible for half of this e-waste.

    • by havana9 ( 101033 )
      I think also that because all the production is made in distant countries by unknown facories makes finding spares really difficult and costly. An '80 CRT TV set made by Philips had a schematic diagram and a spare part list, going down to bare PCBs. I have succesfully repaired myself a couple of Philpis CRT monitors, great for retrogaming with a RasPI or a real Commodore 64, because an elecronic shop still had some spares.
      Nowadays Philips TV are rebranded aplliances made by obscure chinese firms that make
  • by bhcompy ( 1877290 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @12:50PM (#55732245)
    Without better disposal/recycling options, it's going to continue to be like this. People aren't going to put in the effort to search out methods of recycling electronics, hazardous waste like propane tanks, etc, and people don't have space to store that shit to wait for the once a month/quarter/whatever event for actually doing so. The fact that the trash and recycling service that we already pay for doesn't do this is astounding to me.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      My county landfill has an electronic waste recycling area. But they won't let anyone take anything away. I'll see tons of computers that are better than anything I have and probably only there because they're too loaded up with malware. This stuff could be fixed and sold, donated, whatever. At the same time, of course, their raising my property taxes to pay for new computers in the schools.

  • This is what happens when Microsoft and big government collude [forbes.com] to put recycling company CEO's in jail.

    Big industry LOVES selling new stuff, they HATE when people re-use old stuff. Can't make quarterly sales goals if everybody is re-using old stuff and not buying new.

    • by DogDude ( 805747 )
      Microsoft is just one company of many. They really don't have anything to do with a large percentage of electronics now being thrown out.
      • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

        So, in addition to X-box and Surface, you need to consider anything that's being thrown away because MS no longer supports an OS on it...even though MS didn't manufacture the hardware, they're somewhat responsible for it being tossed.

        • You can still activate Windows 7 or even XP if you want to. I don't think versions prior to XP required activation. You can also throw Linux or another alternate OS onto old hardware.
    • by swb ( 14022 )

      I can't help but think it's corrupted our economy somehow. Like corporations have gotten society on this planned obsolescence treadmill and deliberate expiration and dropped support are just gimmicks to keep selling us the same shit over and over again.

      I also worry that it's a sign that we've kind of run out of ideas, nothing new is really coming, just some rehash of what's already been done.

  • The U.N.-backed study published Wednesday calculates that the amount of e-waste thrown away in 2016 included a million tons of chargers alone.

    That's not necessarily all bad. Those older chargers (big wall warts that get warm when charging) wasted a lot of energy. The new small ones are much more efficient.

  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @01:30PM (#55732593) Journal

    OK, this is stating the obvious, but there might be less e-waste if (a) the stuff was more durable, and (b) fewer companies ran on a forced obsolescence business plan. Just sayin'.

    We are past the days where every device had a different, proprietary charger. A few well-made charging solutions save money in the long run over a big box of junk.

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @01:35PM (#55732623) Journal
    First and foremost, we need to quit exporting our 'trash'. This is a resource that should be kept local and used.
    Seriously, we have robotics that can dissemble many of the electronics. Some of it, i.e. the plastics, can, and should, be used for a thermal electricity. At the same time,the rest should be melted down and separated into various elements and then used right away, or stored. FOr example, the mercury and lead can be stored in old mines, until a new use is found for them (and we will).
    The electricity generation and selling of some of the elements (gold, silver, etc) will likely pay for the rest.
  • The Earth weighs 5,972,000,000,000,000 million tons

    Of course waste is bad. But big numbers are meaningless unless some sort of frame is defined.

    • A human weighs 100kg. Yet less than 0.000001g (1 microgram) or 0.000000001kg of some substances can cause irreversible harm or even death. An ecosystem is an organism which is more fragile than we care to think.
    • The Earth weighs 5,972,000,000,000,000 million tons

      But most of its materials are in the wrong place for us. We are running out of copper; there are billions of tons of it in there but it is so hard to collect it together to make cables and pipes. So it's a shame to toss back the copper we have already made the effort to collect.

  • While discarding electronics into dumps isn't great, it's not entirely terrible because it can still be recycled and it's not actively harming the environment sitting in a dump. What is terrible is all the CO2 being released into the air because while it can be recycled it is actively harming the environment. We will eventually move to 100% recycling but we will also have to remove the CO2 from the atmosphere which is going to require a LOT of energy.

  • So, the weight of the waste doesn't matter nearly as much as the volume and obviously any related hazardous materials. With the US producing more waste than any other nation, I thought this perspective was useful...

    From howstuffworks:
    The Great Pyramid in Egypt is 756 feet by 756 feet at the base and is 481 feet tall, and anyone who has seen it in real life knows that it's a huge thing -- one of the biggest things ever built by man. If you took all the trash that the United States would generate in 100 year

  • Clearly there's money to be made on this stuff... so after the dump gets paid to take in the shit that could have been recycled, why don't they separate it and ship it off to the recycling centre for more money?
  • valuable mineral deposits of the future.
    • valuable mineral deposits of the future.

      I've always seen this happening, old electronics used Gold and Silver for one.

      Peoples of India mine landfills as a source of income, and population control...

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )
      In a college class (Cabrillo College, Aptos CA) I had in 1979 each student was tasked to research alternate energy sources. One student examined extracting methane gas at landfills, he also identified "urban ore" potential for mining various metals. My idea was hydrogen powered cars, getting the H2 was tricky because splitting the water using electricity from a fossil fuel plant didn't make sense from energy efficiency. Maybe powering electrolysis from solar or wind power but storing it can be difficult. F
  • by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Wednesday December 13, 2017 @02:59PM (#55733233) Homepage

    Link to a page with the report. [itu.int] Direct link to the PDF. [itu.int]

    A couple of tidbits that I, personally, found interesting:

    - The definition of E-waste: "all items of electrical and electronic equipment and its parts that have been discarded by its owner as waste without the intent of re-use". This includes everything from appliances to solar cells to smartphones.

    - On a per-person basis, E-waste is highest in Europe, the Americas and Oceania. However, Europe had the highest recycling rate (35%).

    - Unstated, but North America is likely the biggest generator, because the figures given are for "the Americas", which includes North, Central and South in one big lump. That's a really odd decision, for a way to group countries.

    - The report claims that only 20% of E-waste is recycled through "appropriate" channels, but they do not define what an "appropriate channel" is.

    Living in Europe, I do not believe the recycling figures. In many European countries - and certainly where I live - it would be very difficult *not* to recycle an appliance. Sure, a small charger may land in a wastebasket, but a washing machine? A refrigerator? We don't have public dumps, and these don't fit in a municipal garbage bag. - the recycling center is the only possible place to dispose of these. More: recycling is free (actually: pre-paid with the original purchase price). The last figures I saw nationally were well over 70%, and I suspect the rates are a lot higher by now.

    Now, how the recycling companies work is a different matter. Some of them ship the devices to unlicensed or fraudulent companies in Africa or Asia for disassembly, which is often...um...suboptimal. But that is an entirely different problem, actually an enforcement problem since this behavior is (afaik) illegal.

    The US has a much bigger problem - not only with E-waste, but with garbage in general. Hauling your garbage off to dumps and burying it, having zero control over what lands in those dumps, geez. Separate the bulk recyclables, incinerate the trash (free electricity + heat), run the ash through separators to recover more metals and minerals. But no, it gets buried, the dumps will eventually leak, and future generations will have to clean it all up.

  • Apple has the most recalcitrant approach to repairs, and their response to customers' inquires on repairability is a thinly veiled "Fuck you kindly". Apple can get away with this because it has a captive audience, plus it offers them something they care about, such as a seamless experience and stuff - I don't know very well as i am not an Apple product user but I am not so stupid that I'd deprecate all of Apple's advantages. However, it is infuriating that the entire computer industry is now following them

  • from the US. Mostly the hazardous stuff. I'm actually a bit worried. Right at a time when we need some extra oversight on how waste is going to be disposed we've got a head of the EPA on record saying he'd end it if he could.
  • How many people have a cardboard box of perfectly good Wall Warts that are for unknown devices? We need to start mandating power sources that are common format. These things should be standardized - like what happened with 95% of Cell phones and the Micro USB. That became a pseudo standard for many devices that are still usable! The countless devices have particular Voltage and Current and connector specs and so on.. Standarizing Wall warts goes against business practice, but would clearly put us (humans)
    • These things should be standardized - like what happened with 95% of Cell phones and the Micro USB. That became a pseudo standard for many devices that are still usable!

      That was not an accident, nor is it a pseudo standard. The European Union mandated Micro USB for cellular phones, by law. The EU is a large enough market that it sloshed into a global standard. The extra vigorish extracted by making two different models of the same phone and charging for proprietary replacement chargers in the rest of the world wasn't worth the expense.

      • Ok. so .... how about all the OTHER wall warts that are in ...like... everything we buy!!! Some devices run on 5V, some at 9V, some at 12V.. 8 different current ratings. How about we setup a smart controller in the Wallwart that the power needed and delivers that ? 5VdC, 9VAC etc... We have the tech. JWPower (tm).
  • My small city has a yearly e-waste recycle day but I don't drive so I can't take a printer/copier to the location. It could be repaired with a new print head and ink tanks but the repair place is 25 miles away. I would like to see a program that would allow me to call and have the item picked up. And repaired.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton