E-waste is growing by about 2 million tons each year, requiring governments to overhaul their recycling infrastructure
Kiran N. Kumar
Japan’s digital minister, Taro Kono, who had spurred the bureaucracy to eliminate outdated tools from stamps to facsimiles, declared “war” on floppy disks still used by government agencies.
Palm-sized square data storage items and newer storage devices, including CDs and minidiscs, made pen drives obsolete more than a decade ago and were needed by leading manufacturer Sony for about 1,900 government procedures in Japan. but in 2011 I threw away the floppy disk.
Read: Japanese scientists create mini memory chips with 3D data storage (June 13, 2022)
“Where can I buy a floppy disk these days?” the minister wondered. But Japan isn’t the only country struggling to phase out outdated technology in offices.
Only in 2019 did the US Department of Defense end the use of floppy disks, as they have been integral to nuclear weapons control systems since the 1960s. Until 2020, British Airways’ Boeing 747-400 fleet used 3.5-inch floppy disks to load avionics software.
Over the past two decades, the transition to new technology devices has been fairly rapid, but the inevitable side effects in the form of e-waste and the vast piles of e-waste appear to be a challenge. In 2021, an estimated 57.4 million tons of e-waste will be generated worldwide.
For example, in Europe, 11 of the 72 electronic devices in the average home are on the table for disposal. A study by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) found that Europe adds 4-5 kilograms of unused electrical and electronic products per household per year, of which only 20% is recycled.
In addition to the enormous environmental damage, the current reserves of some of the major rare earth elements are in short supply, effectively tipping the balance of technological prowess of the developed nations.
Professor Tom Welton, President of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said:
Mining the earth for precious metals is expensive and makes many gadgets unsustainable, so researchers advocate mining e-waste instead. For example, a smartphone contains about 30 different elements, which can be recycled to make future manufacturing more sustainable.
Read: Will Chip Shortage Lead to Potential US-China Trade War? (July 9, 2022)
The RSC has run a campaign to seek recycling rather than continuing to mine all the valuable elements used in consumer technology, driving up prices for materials such as nickel used in electricity in Ukraine. points to the recent effects of the war in car battery.
The post-Corona “supply chain disruption”, especially in China, has caused the price of lithium used in battery technology to rise substantially by almost 500% between 2021 and 2022. It hurts,” says Welton.
Besides Nickel and Lithium, key elements in smartphones that may be in short supply in the next century include Gallium, Arsenic, Silver, Indium, Yttrium and Tantalum.
With the amount of e-waste being generated increasing by about 2 million tons each year, “governments need to overhaul their recycling infrastructure and technology businesses to invest in more sustainable manufacturing.” says Welton.
According to an online survey of 10,000 respondents from 10 countries, 60% said they were more likely to switch to a tech brand if they knew a product was made sustainably. I’m here.
Read: Japan declares ‘war’ on discreet floppy disk with new digital push. (September 1, 2022)
With millions of households struggling to stockpile e-waste and often not knowing how to dispose of it effectively, sustainable efforts to recycle it for better use are key. .
Elizabeth Ratcliffe, another RSC researcher, said that “manufacturers and retailers are more should be held responsible for