Home working sparks tech boom and e-waste concerns

Middle-aged woman uses a laptop in the living room

Many people who work from home have had to upgrade their technology (Credits: Getty Images).

According to a new study, sales restrictions and increased sales of home office equipment have raised concerns about the amount of e-waste generated in the UK.

According to the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), almost half of the people who went to work at home during the closure invested in new computer equipment, but most were unable to reuse the technology they now had.

Their study, based on sales data from electronics retailer Currys PC World, found that 11% of people just throw old technology in the bin and only 13% choose to recycle it.

This figure is significantly lower than the 48% of respondents who said they invested in new equipment to be able to work remotely during a lockdown.

The RSC stated that the influx of new appliances without a comparable amount of recycling creates a growing mountain of e-waste.

It also warned of the increasing sales of fitness trackers, many of which contain valuable elements such as gold, yttrium and indium or are not recyclable.

According to the report, sales of these devices increased by 45% on an annual basis.

said RSC President Professor Tom Welton: It is clear that the coronavirus pandemic has led to rapid changes in the way we work and live, but the important unintended consequence we now face is the rapid emergence of the e-waste crisis that is already worsening in the UK.

The fact that almost as many people get rid of their old technology as recycle it is a big problem.

Increasingly we think about the sustainability of other elements of the house, such as B. Plastic and cardboard packaging.

MacBook Pro M1

Amazing new technologies are constantly coming onto the market (Metro.co.uk)

If we want sustainable technology, we must start thinking the same way about our older devices, otherwise we risk missing the parts needed to make these products, while continuing to contribute to the environmental damage caused by the consumer technology industry.

A report published in November by members of the Environmental Audit Committee (EWC) said that technology giants should be banned from deliberately shortening the lifespan of equipment in order to reduce the 155,000 tonnes of electronic waste that end up in UK households’ bins each year.

He said that technology companies like Amazon and Apple shirk their environmental responsibility and do not collect, recycle or repair old products.

E-waste or e-waste from computers at a scrap yard in Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines.

Electronic waste, also known as e-waste, is a major problem worldwide (Reuters).

Professor Welton said: We know chemists are working on the tricky problem of separating the more critical raw materials from e-waste for recycling, but we need a local recycling infrastructure that collects the waste first.

While we welcome the changes that will come into effect in early January to enable retailers to organise take-back programmes – an issue raised in the Green Audit Committee’s report to the government – only some of the most common products can be recovered in large quantities at the end of their lives. Many precious metals are never recovered.

MORE: The UK has £16.5 billion of unused technology, and our e-waste is out of control.

MORE: The 20 most important technical achievements of the past 20 years.

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