The Digital Wasteland Where Products Never Die
Forbes Africa|October - November 2020
The Digital Wasteland Where Products Never Die
E-waste is hazardous, but often not properly tracked or recycled. What’s needed? A more formalized re-use economy and future-thinking brands.
Tiana Cline

It seems like everything and anything these days is connected to the internet. From robotic vacuum cleaners to toothbrushes, smart refrigerators, electronic toys and even running shoes, computerized devices embedded with sensors and controllers have become everyday purchases. But as we pursue smarter and sleeker gadgets, we also have to ask how these devices will be discarded.

Thirty eight tonnes of electronic waste or e-waste are generated every single minute and by 2021, it’s expected that 57 million tonnes of e-waste will be produced globally (says the Global E-waste Monitor 2020 report). Compared to the overall amount of rubbish generated – 2,000 million tonnes – this number seems relatively small but when you take into account that e-waste has health and environmental implications, and that it’s often not properly tracked or recycled, it becomes a bigger issue.

“Anything that runs on electricity or anything that generates electricity is electronic waste,” explains Giulio Airaga, a digital marketing specialist at Desco Electronic Recyclers. “Even a USB is technically e-waste. Why? Because inside, there’s a circuit board and on it, a concentration of metals… sometimes a little bit of gold, a little bit of silver – it’s traces, so finite, but it’s something.”

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October - November 2020