We Can Manage Our Electronic Waste Better. Here’s How : COMMENT: “Right to Repair” Legislation Critical to E-Waste Reduction

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Each year, we produce 50 million tonnes of electronic waste (e-waste). Believe it or not, that number is growing. The main reason for this is that we haven’t figured out ways to make it easier for people to recycle and reuse their electronic products.

Check out this infographic from the team over at Adepem that demonstrates how large the problem of e-waste really is. The big picture: Even though virtually 100% of electronics are recyclable, we currently only recycle 20% of electronic goods.

When we think about recycling, we often think about plastics, cardboard, and light metals like aluminium. Electronics are a bit trickier to recycle. Consumers do not always have clear guidance on how to recycle older electronic products such as laptops and cell phones, let alone how to repair and reuse them.

That’s why “right to repair” legislation is so important.

Right to repair represents new forms of partnership between citizens, governments, and industry to give consumers more capacity to affordably repair and reuse electronic products. Currently, it’s easier for consumers to simply throw away old electronics and purchase new items.

Right to repair efforts are working to change that reality.

How to Better Manage Electronic Waste: Recycle & Reuse

Any effort to change how we manage e-waste should make good economic sense for consumers.

The good news is that consumers buying electronics (most of us) will likely save from improved reuse and recycling of e-waste. Let’s take a look at a few examples that tell the story:

Refrigerator Repair vs. Replacement

Average refrigerator repair cost: $290

High-end refrigerator replacement cost: $8000

Washing Machine Repair vs. Replacement

Average washing machine repair cost: $290

High-end washing machine replacement cost: $1000

Dryer Repair vs. Replacement

Average dryer repair cost: $180

High-end dryer replacement cost: $1000

Talk about a difference.

Right to repair encourages (and sometimes requires) companies to offer consumers significant discounts for recycling old electronics and to make repair options more affordable and available. That way, consumers can extend the life of their devices and reduce the amount of e-waste being produced.

So there you have it, managing e-waste through repair and recycling is a bit more cost effective than just purchasing new electronic devices. But how do we truly begin to address that other 80% of electronic waste currently not being recycled?

That’s the big waste management hurdle that’s in front of us.

Improved Electronic Waste Management Takes Everyone

Citizens, government, and industry all have an important role to play in reducing e-waste.

For citizens, it’s all about recycling and reusing their electronic goods. When it comes to government, they regulate how companies and consumers work together to handle e-waste. For industry, their task is to make it easier for consumers to recycle and repair those electronic products.

Working together like this through right to repair efforts, consumers and the environment win. Right to repair is a key step in dealing with the crisis of electronic waste.