As consumer technology becomes more advanced with every passing year — whether it’s the latest smartphone model or an ultra-high-definition streaming media player — it’s easy to become fixated on having the latest gadget on the market every time something is released. Yet with so many people standing in line outside tech retailers to wait for a product release or camping out in front of a superstore for Black Friday, the question of what happens to the devices those gadgets replace looms large. It’s because of the accelerated nature of consumer technology that unwanted electronics — or e-waste — is one of the biggest environmental concerns society faces today, with nearly 50 million tons of unwanted electronics expected to be generated worldwide in 2018.
E-waste is a particularly thorny problem from an ecological standpoint because it doesn’t simply take space in landfills like other types of waste. The rare metals and hazardous materials used to manufacture many electronics can pollute the ground and water supplies if disposed of improperly. Although many of these materials can be recycled, that recycling frequently takes place in impoverished nations where safety standards often are non-existent. Using acid to dissolve circuit boards and reclaim metals, for example, can result in toxic mercury being released into the environment — in turn, potentially causing illness.
A big contributor to the e-waste problem, ironically, is one of the smallest components of any electronic device — the cords. Just about every new device we purchase comes with a charging cord or another type of connection cable or both. These often are made with the same hazardous materials as the devices to which they are connected. Nonetheless, because they’re not as large, they tend to be overlooked when recycling e-waste. Being more sustainable and responsible when it comes to e-waste means not forgetting about cords and cables.
The accompanying guide created by Cable Leader lists some of the best ideas for recycling cables and cords from your electronic devices. Pay attention to it, and this important element of sustainability won’t be lost in the rush for the next tech product.