Electronic waste (E-waste) refers to a large range of items: all types of electrical and electronic equipment and their parts that have been discarded after use (Step Initiative, 2014). This includes practically anything powered by an electrical source, such as power sockets or batteries. In fact, you are using an electronic device to view this blog right now! If you take a look around you, chances are, you have more than a dozen electronic equipment surrounding you.
Some examples of electronic devices are:
Infocomm Technology Products: Smartphones, Laptops, Hard Disk Drives, Screen Projectors, Computer Accessories, Earphones, Portable Chargers
Home Appliances: Washing Machines, Televisions, Fridges, Electric Fans, Vacuum Cleaners, Lamps, Air Conditioners
Leisure Gadgets: Gaming Consoles, Battery Operated Toys, Batteries, Music Players, Radios, Cameras
These examples are only the tip of the electronic iceberg. Since the advent of our digital age, we are using and discarding electronic products at an unprecedented rate. Most of these electronics that we discard are often not trash, but simply perceived as outdated and traded for the latest version on the market.
The amount of E-waste produced globally increased from 39.8 million tonnes in 2013, to 41.8 million tonnes in 2014. If the current rate of production continues, this number is estimated to increase to a whooping 50 million tonnes (~50 billion kilograms) by 2018 (Baldé et al, 2014).
E-waste is hailed as a major global environmental issue. E-waste is often bulky and takes up a lot of spaces in landfills. Finite resources such as metals are used in the production of electronic goods. Furthermore, they also contain toxic substances, such as lead and mercury, posing as health hazards and pollutants.
How does the average Singaporean fare?
Every year, Singapore produces 60 million kilograms of E-waste, which is akin to every single person in Singapore throwing away the equivalent of 6-8 laptops away per year (Sakthivel, 2017). We rank as the biggest offender in South-East Asia, and 19th globally (Bodamer, 2015).
Many factors such as technological advancement and increasing affluence drastically increases the rate of electronics replacement. Unsurprisingly, our e-waste production is expected to rise in the coming years. To this date, little has been broadcasted about E-waste in Singapore. As we aim to be a Zero Waste Nation, we need better solutions – both downstream and upstream – to move away from being a Throw Away Nation.