Almost everything we know about e-waste is wrong
Data on waste generation typically separate producer wastes, such as those from mining, and consumer wastes such as those from households. But there are problems with such division.
It makes the mistake of thinking producer waste and consumer waste are two separate things instead of flip sides of the same coin in industrial systems. It also makes the mistake of presuming consumers have much in the way of meaningful choice in what their electronics are made of.
Electronics contain a wide variety of materials. One important example is copper. The electronics industry is the second-largest consumer of copper. Only the building and construction sector uses more.
Post-consumer recycling of electronics will never be enough, we need to be able to repair — and upgrade — the devices we already have, if we are to slow our production of e-waste.
In the U.S., the Repair Association is doing the hard work of advocating for consumers to have the right to repair the devices they purchase by enshrining those rights into law. That said, an e-waste recycler in California now faces a 15-month prison sentence and a US$50,000 fine in his efforts to extend the lives of computers.
The automobile, food and pharmaceutical industries have to show their products meet certain safety standards before they are put on the market. Why not demand the same of the electronics industry?