Britain has woken up to the fact that most appliances aren’t made to last these days. In fact these use and throw things are contributing to huge piles of waste. Phones and washing machines must be built to last, MPs in the UK have said as a government committee launches an inquiry into e-waste.
Mary Creagh, a Labour MP, who is launching the enquiry, has said that while in the past technology was built to last, now it is built to degrade in order to produce profit for tech companies. Ms Creagh is the chairperson of the Environmental Audit Committee.
The Labour MP told the media: “30 years ago, things were built to last, I had a dishwasher I gave to my sister that was 30 years old. Why is it that dishwashers that are built today break after 10 years? They are designed to break down because this creates profit for the companies.
“Fridges, freezers, kettles and phones cause a tsunami of e-waste”.
According to the Global E-waste Monitor 2017, in one year, a staggering 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste are being generated.
Of this total amount, 40 million tonnes of e-waste are discarded in landfill, burned or illegally traded and treated in a sub-standard way every year.
Most of this waste ends up in landfills, is incinerated, or simply piles up unused in people’s homes.
You may not realize it, but you are inadvertently throwing away precious metals such gold, silver, platinum which are used in the manufacture of microchips, motherboards and other electronics.
Europe and the US alone contribute to almost one-half of the total e-waste generated annually. Half of this is personal devices, such as computers, smartphones and televisions, and the rest includes larger household appliances.
In the UK, it is felt that recycling plants often do not have the technology to take apart and properly dispose of the plastics and precious metals inside our obsolete devices.
A London newspaper says that Britain is one of the worst countries in the world for producing e-waste, with the average UK resident throwing away 24.5kg of electronic junk each year. The average US citizen throws away 20kg, and in Australia it is 23.6kg.
Charities including Oxfam and Greenpeace are campaigning to raise awareness and reduce instances of unnecessary e-waste.
Doug Parr, Chief Scientist for Greenpeace, said: “E-waste is now the fastest-growing waste stream in the world with a stubbornly low recycling rate.
“Brands and manufacturers need to focus more on product design, reducing the need for new raw materials by making products that are more durable, repairable, reusable and recyclable.”
The trend of buying a new smartphone every time a new model is released is a large part of the issue, as rapidly going through devices adds to the e-waste mountain.
Mrs Creagh explained: “We see new models of phones created every year which have marginal changes from the old model. “I have managed to hold onto my iPhone for more than four years. People are rightly demanding longer lasting phones and longer lasting batteries.
“We see computer hardware upgrades on a cyclical basis, on a three year basis, so it is problematic and of course as we all start driving electric cars and switching to new vehicles we need to work out how we source the cadmium that goes into the new batteries.”
While the issue of plastic pollution is well-known and starting to be tackled by the government, the Environmental Audit Committee believes the UK is “turning a blind eye” to the problem of e-waste.
However, the chair hopes the inquiry will make gadget waste “the next big thing.” She added: “We have to value what we’ve got and encourage manufacturers to encourage less consumption.
“People get it with plastics and are beginning to understand it with fashion but this is the really tricky area of your phone, your tablet, your laptop, and your television.”