When you think about getting a new device, you’re probably not thinking about all the steps it took to get to you, or the steps it will take once you move on and buy a new toy. But there’s a lot that goes into making your device, and thinking about the technology life cycle can help us understand why it’s so important to recycle e-waste. Of course, we all know that it takes a lot to get electronics from the manufacturer to our homes or offices, and yet technology is still considered highly disposable. The rate we cycle out electronics may not be moving faster, but it’s not getting much slower, so we need to be mindful of what happens to our devices when we’re done with them.
With that, let’s consider the steps that technology takes throughout its entire “life”. and why these steps matter.
Technology Life Cycle
We’re taking it back even a step before the manufacture stage: the acquisition of materials needed to produce electronics. These materials include precious metals, like gold and silver. Mining these materials does disrupt the environment, which is why it’s ideal to re-use the metals from electronics as much as possible.
Step 2: Manufacturing & Testing
Once all the materials are together, they need to be made into the components required. Those components can then be used in the manufacture process for different electronic devices. Once everything is assembled, the devices are tested to make sure they’re functional.
Step 3: Shipping and Sale
Once the devices are ready to go, they’re shipped to a retailer or consumer, using lots of energy to get from point A to point B.
Step 4: Personalization and Use
This is where you come in–and depending on your habits, you’ll probably keep a phone for under 2 years! Tablets and computers tend to last a bit longer–but not much.
Step 5: End-of-Life
This is where the steps can be different–and where we as consumers play a vital role. It’s easy to let old cell phones and laptops just sit around and gather dust, or worse, toss them in the trash can, but that’s a big and growing problem worldwide.
Electronics that are allowed to end up in landfills become hazards to the environment, leaching toxins into the water, air, and soil. These same problems can be a threat to community health, endangering the lives of people living near landfills. Finally, e-waste that isn’t recycled wastes money by not re-using components like metals that could be used to make new devices.
Recycling is the only safe way to dispose of electronics. The components are broken down safely, and useful materials are salvaged for resale and re-use. Certified recyclers also know how to effectively wipe data for companies to help prevent data breaches.
The Technology Life Cycle: Why it Cycles Quickly
So why do we replace our technology so often? Because it’s fun. We like getting fast, more powerful devices every few years, and as Electronics Recyclers points out, that might be okay:
“Some people argue planned obsolescence is not even necessarily a bad thing. It’s merely the product of a free market in a capitalist society, which is doing its best to get the newest fun toy out to the consumer. If we never wanted to upgrade our devices and get the newest toy, we’d still be watching black and white analog TV while we chilled our drinks in underground root cellars and thought hula-hoops were as fun as one could get.”
The bottom line? It may be okay to get new electronics every few years, as long as they’re responsibly recycled. What do you think? Should we be making devices to last? Or is planned obsolescence just fine?
Author Bio: Ronnie is the Marketing Manager for ICT Asset Recovery. He loves swing dancing, wine, responsible recycling and adventuring around the world. A recent transplant from Texas, he’s been soaking in the Boston scene and diligently working with ICT to promote the message of responsible e-waste recycling.