According to a recent study, led by a researcher at the Yale School of the Environment’s Center for Industrial Ecology, electronic waste has been on the decline since 2015.
In an age when most of us can’t imagine life without our digital devices, this surprising finding has ramifications for both how we think about electronic waste’s future and for the laws and regulations regarding e-waste recycling, reports the Good News Network.
A major contributor to this decline is the disappearance of bulkier electronic waste and better e-waste regulations.
“If you look at the state laws that exist in many places for e-waste recycling, many of them set their targets based on product mass,” says Callie Babbitt, a professor at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability and one of the study’s authors.
According to The Hill, this is good news for some environmental issues. Lightweight products require less natural resources to make and less electricity to operate. The phenomenon of device convergence means that a multi-function smartphone replaces separate phones, cameras, video recorders, media players and handheld gaming consoles. New products also contain less hazardous materials, in contrast to leaded glass contained in old cathode ray tubes or mercury bulbs found in early liquid crystal display (LCD) screens.
Shahana Althaf, the lead author of the study says, “people are slowly realizing… the need to ensure domestic supply.”
E-waste is also rich in metals and rare earth elements needed to manufacture solar panels, wind turbines and motors and lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles (EV). Recovering these resources from used smartphones and laptops can accelerate adoption of low-carbon energy and create a domestic supply of minerals that the U.S. typically imports from other countries, writes Callie W. Babbitt, Shahana Althaf and Jason Linnell.