EcoRubric 17:15 04 Nov 2021

There's a problem: how to dispose of old gadgets? We found a solution

Did 13 iPhone make you look for the last refuge for the previous smartphone? Did the headphones break again? Did the laptop finally fail your 125 tabs and die a quiet death? All these things could end up in the dump. But they'll harm the environment. We talk about alternative proper solutions that everyone in Ukraine needs.

What is the problem?

Old electronics are the world's fastest-growing type of household waste. Moreover, it's very dangerous. Last year, the amount of e-waste in the world was almost 54 million tons. For a better understanding, these are the three hundred and fifty largest cruise liners, and if you put them in one line, their length will reach one hundred and twenty-five kilometers! According to forecasts, by 2050, this number may increase at least threefold.

Almost 10% of e-waste is smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets, and it's the fastest-growing category of waste in the world. The average lifespan of a smartphone, for example, is only two to three years, after which most people buy newer models. Not much longer live tablets and laptops that break or no longer meet user needs. So the old equipment turns into electronic garbage, which, when it hits the landfill, harms the environment.

So what about the old technology? You probably already understand that just taking it to the dump is not the best option.

What are the solutions? 

Що робити з гаджетами

  1. Sell. This can and should be done because after selling you can return a small part of the money spent on the purchase. The cost of an outdated gadget will be small, as technology is progressing very quickly and old technology is of interest only to craftsmen who repair it. If it's a question of selling rather a new phone, you may count on half of its cost. Before selling, it's best to put the gadget in order, find the factory packaging, and complement the phone as it was done by the manufacturer.
  2. Take to the store for an exchange. Such promotions are often held by stores that sell phones. You can often get a decent discount when buying a new device.
  3. Present. You can give it to relatives and friends. Older mobile devices are often inherited by older parents who don't need a lot of memory or popular applications in the smartphone. The mobile phone can be salvation in a difficult situation because even if it's obsolete, the communication function is still preserved.
  4. It is possible to donate a phone and other working equipment not only to close people but also to a charitable organization. Now many charitable foundations are looking for such gadgets, to later give them to people who can not afford such a purchase.
  5. Dispose of. According to statistics, 40% of old mobile phones simply continue to lie at home, 20% of used smartphones are resold for reuse, and only 9-10% are recycled. The other 30% of gadgets end up in landfills. The most dangerous element of any electronic device is the battery, which includes lead, chromium, cadmium, and mercury. Once in landfills, they poison groundwater, land, and air and adversely affect human health.

However, used gadgets are not only harmful to the environment, but they can also be suppliers of precious metals. Experts from the European Chamber of Auditors have estimated that a ton of smartphones can produce about 100 times more gold than a ton of gold ore. Cases made of plastic or metal are also subject to recycling.

We need a hero here! What is e-waste? 

Що робити з гаджетами

  • mobile phones, smartphones
  • computer technology
  • printers, telephones, and faxes
  • home appliances, TVs
  • electronic toys

In order not to harm nature and significantly save its resources, gadgets must be disposed of properly. The best way to get rid of electronic junk is to collect such equipment at home, unnecessary accessories and hand them over to a special reception point or hand them over to specialized enterprises. And those who are engaged in its dismantling, sorting, processing, and transfer for the subsequent utilization. This ensures that such items don't end up in landfills.

Rubryka was told about the recycling process and its work at one of such enterprises. The Waste Management Center (WMC) is located in Kyiv and helps to comprehensively manage waste.

How does it work?

Що робити з гаджетами

The main customers of the Waste Management Center are large business enterprises, as they usually produce the largest amount of hazardous electronic waste. But they also provide services to individuals: they accept any equipment from residents, absolutely for free and in any volume. For this, the company has a day when they accept equipment from the population: every Wednesday from 9 am to 6 pm, they accept technical waste in Kyiv at 16 Polkovnyka Shutova Street. Also, for the second year in a row, the company is organizing mobile collection points for electronic and electrical garbage; only in September, the mobile points of the Centre have saved the planet from 1102 units of obsolete equipment that could end up in landfills and get new life instead.

"We transport all the collected equipment to our sorting station, where specialists disassemble the devices themselves, sort the obtained elements by types of raw materials: metal, glass, plastic, etc.," says Olha Zirko, marketing director of the Center. "Then, when the volumes accumulate to a certain point, we transfer them to our contractors, manufacturers, for further processing or production of new elements.

By the way, we transfer 70 percent of the elements from the disassembled equipment to secondary production, because they're suitable for use. And only 30 percent, which cannot be recycled, is given to the Energia incinerator. Thanks to such waste, it, in turn, provides heat to the left bank of Kyiv. This is a cycle that helps not only to preserve the environment, save raw materials but also to produce energy."

What to do if you're far from Kyiv? 

Electronic junk can be sent to the Waste Management Center by mail; this service is relevant for both Kyiv residents and residents of other settlements (delivery at the expense of the sender). The WMC reception point will gladly accept the accumulated equipment in any quantity.

There are other e-waste disposal companies in Ukraine. Unfortunately, they are few, because such activities involve a strong staff of engineers, workers, relevant sorting and processing departments. This is an entire complex! But despite the small number, they exist and operate. Information about existing companies is publicly available on the Internet.

In order not to make a mistake in choosing a company and to be sure that your phone or laptop will not end up in the landfill after several boards are removed from it, Olha Zirko advises checking the company for a license for technical waste disposal and storage. If it is available, such information will be publicly available. After all, electronic garbage is an extremely dangerous waste for the environment and for people who need special treatment.

Samsung Electronics also launched a recycling program for old phones in Ukraine this summer. To return your old phone for Samsung disposal, you need to call the company's contact center or fill out the form on the website to obtain the number of the consignment note. After that, you need to pack the smartphone and either send it in person by Nova Poshta to the specified consignment note or give it to the courier. Delivery services for users are free, everything is paid for by the company. Another option for environmental awareness and responsibility without calls and filling out forms is to visit one of the automated sorting centers (ASC) and leave your smartphone in a special container.

Also in many cities of Ukraine special campaigns on the collection, resuscitation, or utilization of electronic waste are organized. For example, in Khmelnytskyi, there is a regular Ecobus, which collects hazardous waste and electronic garbage, and in Lviv, the "Kolo" platform has been operating for three years now, which together with the Museum of Audio Engineering "revives" old computer equipment, radio and sound equipment, and other electronics.

Even more solutions: from medals to new coins

Що робити з гаджетами

  • An inspiring example of recycling was shown this year in Japan. Medals made of precious metals from electronic waste recycling were made to reward athletes at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. 48 tons of gadgets were collected, from which 30 kg of gold, 4100 kg of silver, and 2700 kg of bronze were obtained, which almost completely covered the need for precious metals for medals. True, some athletes have complained that the cover of gold medals is peeling off, but that, for the sake of the environment, they will have to handle the awards more carefully. British athlete Tom Daly, for example, took care of his medal in advance and tied a protective cover for it.
  • In Taiwan, the Environmental Protection Agency has brought together 10 manufacturers and 5 telecom operators to advance a plan to dispose of mobile phones. In total, the country has opened 3,000 outlets, which accept the old gadget. Local environmentalists were inspired by the example of Japanese people who handed over electric waste to make Olympic medals.
  • In France, you can now send your old smartphone for recycling by mail for free. Gadgets in good condition will be repaired and sold for charity, and reworked if in bad. First, each phone is sent to the processing center, where it erases all data. The algorithm is simple: you order a special envelope on the site and take it to the post office. You can track the path of your phone by account. In June, the French sent 62,000 tons of equipment.
  • In the English pub Trade-Inn you can pay for food and drinks with old equipment. Once the equipment arrives at the bar, it is picked up by a repair and resale company. It is estimated that if every Briton says goodbye to electronic junk, they will be able to buy about 8 pints of beer.

And in the UK, coins will be issued from waste from old gadgets. To do this, the country's Royal Mint began working with Canadian startup Excir, which has developed an affordable technology to extract gold and silver from chips. It allows you to get metals "with a high degree of purity." In the next couple of years, a plant will be built in Wales, which will be engaged in the extraction of valuable raw materials.


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