NCER report points to future e-waste recycling challenges, encourages reuse

Dive Brief:

  • The National Center for Electronics Recycling (NCER) and the Sustainability Consortium, commissioned by the Closed Loop Fund, have released a new report on the state of electrical and electronic management in the U.S. The report estimates that consumers bought more than 1 billion devices in 2015 and 3.8 billion devices are currently in households.
  • The report predicts it will become harder to process this waste in the next five years as devices become smaller and contain more components in smaller portions.
  • Reuse and refurbishment are seen as key strategies for dealing with e-waste, though a better collection system is needed. A national landfill ban on e-waste is mentioned as one possible solution. 

Dive Insight:

The NCER report was informed by surveying 37 organizations including the consumer electronics industry, NGOs, government, refurbishers, recyclers, and trade groups and provides a thorough look at where e-waste management is heading. Data cited in the report shows a 15% year-over-year increase in the number of mobile and wearable devices entering the market and estimates that the average household has 24 devices. U.S. households will generate roughly 800 million units of used electronics in 2020, much of which may sit in homes for years.

As technology continues to change rapidly and many of these devices become obsolete, it's more important than ever to find ways to properly dispose of them. The NCER report highlights the need for new collection systems that transport material over shorter distances and are better equipped to handle these materials.

Companies have begun doing more to ensure their products don't end up in landfills and states are looking at new laws to adapt to new technology. Though as the nonprofit Basel Action Network has found, some companies are still resorting to irresponsible disposal practices. The environmental hazards of improper disposal coupled with the economic opportunities of recycling or reusing the equipment make a compelling case for increased action in this area.

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Filed Under: Recycling Waste Diversion
Top image credit: Curtis Palmer