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The Gadget Recycling Problem

Spare a thought for those gadgets you’ll be replacing this Christmas! After all shouldn’t your new IT device be more than “just for Christmas”?

Recycling ElectronicsWhen you’re buying a new gadget for your loved one this Christmas spare a thought for the item it’ll be replacing and what’s going to happen to it when it’s no longer needed. In 2011 nearly 42 million tonnes of electronic waste was generated, a figure that is set to increase to almost 100 million tonnes by 2016. And the sad fact is that the gadgets that are being upgraded or replaced usually end up in landfill rather than properly recycled. But it’s not just consumers who need to be aware of the waste they are creating. Manufacturers also need to think about recycling and not only in the manufacturing plants. Sure many of the top companies are introducing green initiatives that involve using greener energy, reducing packaging and designing products that use less power. But they must also be responsible for the products that consumers no longer use.

Once upon a time, long long ago products were designed to be repaired more than they were replaced. Components were easily accessible and the product was simple to take apart. Our need for smaller, more compact devices, brought about in part by successful advertising, meant companies brought onto the market products that while being slim, beautiful and more functional, were more difficult to repair. And the cost of replacing some of the parts was astronomical. Making it more cost-effective for the consumer to buy something new.

The problem of such large quantities of electronic waste has not been helped by people’s lack of understanding and the inefficiency of recycling. But it’s still something we all need to consider, particularly at Christmas. Your outdated smartphone or tablet contains harmful chemicals such as lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic. And what happens when these devices languish at the bottom of the local landfill? Those noxious chemicals leach into the surrounding soil causing damage to the environment and often ending up in your own water supply.

So when you open your Xmas present and gaze in awe at your latest gadget think about where and how you dispose of the old one it’s replacing. Hand it in at your local recycling centre or store and it will either be repackaged and resold, if it’s still in good working order, or broken down and recycled in a responsible way.

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