What we are throwing away

Our e-stuff is a goldmine. Recently the United Nations University and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) estimated that electronic waste now contains precious metal “deposits” 40 to 50 times richer than ores mined from the ground. Annually $16 billion in gold is built into our electronics and at least 85% is not recovered – lost forever.

WRAP estimates that in the UK, between now and 2020, 3 million tonnes of IT equipment, consumer electronics and display screens will be disposed.

This is roughly the weight of 30,000 Routemaster buses EACH YEAR.

According to WRAP, at least 25% of this waste could be reused.

But statistics are often abstractions. What actually happens on the ground? What does this look like? We visited Camden’s waste disposal and recycling site at Regis Road earlier this month.

There we saw the skips dedicated to e-waste, the separate mobile recycling box, as well as a huge heap of household appliances.

We learned that the North London Waste Authority runs the facility, who in turn subcontracts out waste disposal to different companies. Camden residents’ WEEE (waste electrical & electronic equipment) is recycled and disposed of by DHL Envirosolutions.

We saw that people are bringing “broken” laptops, mobiles and devices that still could be repaired or at least sold for parts. It’s great to see that e-waste is being dealt with properly, but much of this could be diverted and prevented from being treated as “waste” in the first place.

The visit simply confirmed our idea that there is much to be done in terms of waste prevention and stimulating economies of repair!

Camden Council has been very supportive of our project and our ideas – we thank them for arranging the visit. Being literally so close to e-waste inspired us and helped us focus on our mission – reduce what we are throwing away by facilitating repair and promoting new skills.

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4 thoughts on “What we are throwing away

  1. Assuming the item is not fixable or re-usable do the recyclers mind if you strip off the plastics and metals and put those in your regular recycling passing just the wiring and pcbs for the ewaste?
    Some things like old monitors you probably don’t want to strip (as the case makes a good transport for the glass and electronics), however a stereo speaker is mostly a wooden box, very easy to hack apart, no need for that to be sent to the ewaste, just the speaker cone itself.

    • I agree with your ideas but but here (80 miles away from London) the whole item (or whatevers left of it after you’ve scavenged it for components) has to be taken to the WEEE dump at your own expense – I dare not try putting the “OK” bits in the blue bin, already had one rejected for glass bottles (as my old region allowed them!!) – with flytipping from small businesses being a problem here its easy to get a reputation for someone deliberately trying to buck the system and “they know where you live”…

      I also feel that more effort should be used to recycle the items for parts within the UK. from looking at what is in the trash there, I’m sure you have noticed a few things that can be recovered – for instance the PURE DAB radio of that ERA is often junked simply because its internal battery is kapot when this can be replaced (though not without some electronics knowledge)

  2. Hi, i have a flat screen tv that has lost its picture but still has the sound. Can i bring this to your workshop to be fixed? as i am on low benefits and cannot afford to go to repair shop. It would save been throwing it away and being without a tv.

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