The Growing Problem of E-Waste

Back in the day, we all had a single home phone, wired into the wall. It rang, we answered it, it rarely broke and we rarely replaced it. Why would we? It still did exactly what it was supposed to do, be a telephone. Then came the revolution to beat all others, the digital revolution. Some bright sparks managed to turn the simple telephone into a mobile gadget. Not only a gadget, but a fashion item too. Ask yourself this, how many mobile phones have you had in your life so far? It is likely to be well into double figures.

That is just telecommunications, then we factor in computers, laptops, smart TV’s, tablets, all with a relatively short life. Often not because they break but because the latest model is now out, and we all want it. This digital revolution is in many ways beneficial to us all, but it also creates a massive problem, e-waste. All these devices need to be disposed of, and preferably recycled, almost all of them contain a small amount of gold and other recyclable materials. This is where companies like AWA Refiners come in, providing e-waste recycling services, and reducing the impact e-waste has on our planet.

So, here are the headline numbers and they are pretty scary reading: According to Marketwatch, in 2018, on average, consumers replaced their mobile phones every 15 months. According to the UN, in 2018 the world generated 48.5 million tons of electronic waste. Only 20% of this was recycled and if we carry on at this rate, they estimate we could be creating 120 million tons of electronic waste each and every year. A sobering thought indeed.

The lack of responsible disposure and recycling of electronic waste poses a genuine risk to our environment. These discarded items contain some nasty elements including Cadmium, Lead, Nickel, and Mercury. As they are washed into the environment by water, they can affect delicate eco-systems and even get into our own water supplies, so we could be quite literally poisoning ourselves.

So, are we all doomed to global destruction under a mountain of toxic e-waste? Hopefully not, but we really must do something about it, and we can all get involved. The headline terms are “reduce”, “reuse” and “recycle”.


Simply by keeping our devices longer before replacing them can collectively make a massive difference. The manufacturers themselves should also be encouraged to adopt eco-design policies, making the devices more ecologically friendly. The cycle created by clever marketing strategies make it tempting to go for the very latest model but waiting a couple of years will really help the environment.


Rather than throwing your old phone in a drawer and forgetting it, or far worse throwing it in the bin, if it still works, pass it on to a friend or family member who may not be able to afford the latest model. Sell it online or send it to one of the many charities now making an income from old, but serviceable electronic devices.


When your electronic device does come to the end of its useful life, do not throw it away. Send it to a specialist recycling company like AWA Refiners, who will recover as much reusable material as possible and responsibly dispose of the waste.