Friday, July 27, 2012

WASTE MANAGEMENT - Why applying the 3Rs hierarchy is important?

The 3Rs hierarchy is used to reduce the amount of discarded waste.
Reduce has to be promoted, then Reuse and finally Recycling. 3Rs is a smart principle but we have difficulty to apply it.
Companies dealing with end-of-life electronic equipment are focused mainly on recycling. Reduce and Reuse are 2 principles to apply before Recycling.

In the USA or in developed countries, items are discarded because they are no more fashionable or not enough powerful to play to the last Call of Duty… In most cases, they are still totally reusable and are fully functioning.

Fact 1.
The reuse market is too small in the USA, for this reason exports towards countries with low purchasing power is an environmentally-friendly possibility. Reuse and Repair increase the lifespan of the equipment.

Fact 2.
Second hand equipment is more affordable than brand new equipment. People can afford to buy computer, this helps to reduce the digital divide [3,4, 5 and 6].

Fact 3.
Recycling instead of mining as electronic waste contains precious metal [2, 7 and 8].


Fact 4.
Recycling and Reuse create jobs. [3,4,5 and 9].
Informal recycling and reuse sector is active. “Active informal recycling sector collect as much as 80-90% of their locally-generated e-waste” [1].

Despite these 4 facts electronic waste management is not yet perfect and need to be improved.

Fact 5.
Some practices need to be improved in developing countries, electronic waste cannot be disposed in inappropriate landfills or burned in the open-air. [4 and 10].
“Some 50% of the gold in e-waste is lost in crude dismantling processes in developing countries (compared with 25% in developed countries); just 25% of what remains is recovered using backyard recycling processes (compared with 95% at a modern high-tech recycling facility).” [1].
Bad practices have negative impacts on the environment.

Electronic waste management need an holistic approach. Applying the 3Rs hierarchy; Reduce, Reuse and Recycling in an holistic approach and respectful of the environment.

References :
[1] United Nations University : (about ″E-waste challenge : Reuse practices, principles and standards″)

[2] United Nations University : (about ″E-waste: Annual Gold, Silver “Deposits” in New High-Tech Goods Worth $21 Billion+; Less Than 15% Recovered″)

[3] Miller, Gregory, Duan and Kirchain (2012) Characterizing Transboundary Flows of Used Electronics: Summary Report. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 102p.

[4] Babbitt, Williams and Kahhat (2011) Institutional Disposition and Management of End-of-Life Electronics. Environmental Science & Technology 45, 5366–5372

[5] EPA, White House Council on Environmental Quality and General Services Administration (2011) National strategy for electronics stewardship. 34p.

[6] Varin and Roinat (2008) The entrepreneur’s guide to computer recycling Volume 1 Basics for starting up a computer recycling business in emerging markets. TIC ETHIC, 93 p.

[7] USGS (2001) Obsolete Computers, “Gold Mine” or High-Tech Trash? Resource Recovery from Recycling, 4p.

[8] Hangekülen (2011) Recycling of technology metals: opportunities and challenges. Umicore Hanau, 28p.

[9] Convention de Bâle (2012) Where are WEEE in Africa? 4p.

[10] (about ″E-waste, Egypt and the Digital Divide″)

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