European e-waste must be recycled
Minerals used in electronic devices such as mobile phones and laptops are becoming increasingly scarce. Despite this, large quantities are thrown into landfills when such high-tech products are considered obsolete, something that unfortunately occurs with increasing frequency (see Moore’s Law).
The European Parliament is proposing stricter standards for the recycling of e-waste.
From a Deutsche Welle report:
The Parliament wants member countries to be collecting at least 85 percent of electronic waste by 2016. Depending on the type of device, it wants a reuse quota of 55 to 75 percent. It also wants to introduce stricter export regulations to hinder illegal waste exports. Those could require companies to prove they are exporting functioning electronic devices instead of waste products.
While Europe exports huge amounts of electronic waste to developing countries for recycling, the European Parliament would also like to export its safer recycling standards. This could be a challenge to enforce or even inspect.
It’s also a challenge to recycle electronic waste, as many who have tried to recycle a laptop battery will know.
What’s worse is that some of these rare earth elements used in electronics are conflict minerals sourced from warzones in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, where profits from mining minerals such as coltan, cassiterite, wolframite, as well as gold, fuel bloody fighting. Meanwhile miners work as forced labor or for a few dollars a day and at great personal risk due to unsafe conditions. Many of the miners are also children.
Something to consider next time when you think you just “have” to have the latest iPhone.