By Callie Babbitt and Shahana Althaf
It's hard to imagine navigating modern life without a mobile phone in hand. Computers, tablets and smartphones have transformed how we communicate, work, learn, share news and entertain ourselves. They became even more essential when the COVID-19 pandemic moved classes, meetings and social connections online.
Recycling Used Electronics<p>Thirty years of data show why the volume of e-waste in the U.S. is decreasing. New products are <a href="https://apnews.com/article/bb5ff45b98f64123b3d408dd4a336b59" target="_blank">lighter and more compact than past offerings</a>. Smartphones and laptops have edged out desktop computers. Televisions with thin, flat screens have displaced bulkier <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathode-ray_tube" target="_blank">cathode-ray tubes</a>, and streaming services are doing the job that once required standalone MP3, DVD and Blu-ray players. U.S. households now produce about <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/jiec.13074" target="_blank">10% less electronic waste by weight</a> than they did at their peak in 2015.</p><p>The bad news is that <a href="https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling" target="_blank">only about 35% of U.S. e-waste is recycled</a>. Consumers often don't know where to recycle discarded products. If electronic devices decompose in landfills, hazardous compounds can leach into groundwater, including <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/10962247.2019.1640807" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">lead</a> used in older circuit boards, mercury found in early LCD screens and <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/9/30/toxins-in-plastics-blamed-for-health-environment-hazards" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flame retardants</a> in plastics. This process poses health risks to people and wildlife.</p>
Disassembling Products and Assembling Data<p>Health and environmental risks have prompted 25 U.S. states and the District of Columbia to <a href="https://www.ecycleclearinghouse.org/maps.aspx" target="_blank">enact e-waste recycling laws</a>. Some of these measures ban landfilling electronics, while others require manufacturers to support recycling efforts. All of them target large products, like old cathode-ray tube TVs, which contain up to 4 pounds of lead.</p><p>We wanted to know whether these laws, adopted from 2003 to 2011, can keep up with the current generation of electronic products. To find out, we needed a better estimate of how much e-waste the U.S. now produces.</p><p>We mapped sales of electronic products from the <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/04/a-terminal-condition/361313/" target="_blank">1950s</a> to the present, using data from industry reports, government sources and consumer surveys. Then we <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41597-020-0573-9" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">disassembled almost 100 devices</a>, from obsolete VCRs to today's smartphones and fitness trackers, to weigh and measure the materials they contained.</p>
A researcher takes apart a smartphone to find out what materials are inside. Shahana Althaf, CC BY
This dissected tablet shows the components inside, each of which were logged, weighed and measured by researchers. Callie Babbitt, CC BY<p>We created a <a href="https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3986969" target="_blank">computer model to analyze the data</a>, producing one of the most detailed accounts of U.S. electronic product consumption and discards currently available.</p>
E-waste Is Leaner, But Not Necessarily Greener<p>The big surprise from our research was that U.S. households are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/jiec.13074" target="_blank">producing less e-waste</a>, thanks to compact product designs and digital innovation. For example, a smartphone serves as an all-in-one phone, camera, MP3 player and portable navigation system. Flat-panel TVs are about 50% lighter than <a href="https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/gwire/2009/06/15/15greenwire-some-see-e-waste-crisis-trailing-switch-to-dig-81110.html" target="_blank">large-tube TVs</a> and don't contain any lead.</p><p>But not all innovations have been beneficial. To make lightweight products, manufacturers miniaturized components and glued parts together, making it harder to repair devices and more expensive to recycle them. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s10098-020-01890-3" target="_blank">Lithium-ion batteries</a> pose another problem: They are hard to detect and remove, and they can spark <a href="https://www.theverge.com/2020/2/28/21156477/recycling-plants-fire-batteries-rechargeable-smartphone-lithium-ion" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">disastrous fires</a> during transportation or recycling.</p><p>Popular features that consumers love – speed, sharp images, responsive touch screens and long battery life – rely on metals like cobalt, indium and <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-are-rare-earths-crucial-elements-in-modern-technology-4-questions-answered-101364" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rare-earth elements</a> that require immense energy and expense to mine. Commercial recycling technology cannot yet recover them profitably, although innovations are starting to emerge.</p>
Re-envisioning Waste as a Resource<p>We believe solving these challenges requires a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2019.05.038" target="_blank">proactive approach</a> that treats digital discards as resources, not waste. Gold, silver, palladium and other valuable materials are now more concentrated in e-waste than in natural ores in the ground.</p><p>"<a href="https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200407-urban-mining-how-your-home-may-be-a-gold-mine" target="_blank">Urban mining</a>," in the form of recycling e-waste, could replace the need to dig up scarce metals, reducing environmental damage. It would also <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2020.105248" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduce U.S. dependence</a> on <a href="https://www.cato.org/blog/chinas-critical-minerals-national-security-meaning-supply-chain-interdependence" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">minerals imported from other countries</a>.</p>
Concentration of hazardous (left) and valuable (right) materials within the U.S. e-waste stream. Althaf et al. 2020
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Elliot Douglas
First developed in China more than a thousand years ago, fireworks have since become an integral part of celebrations all over the world. From New Year's Eve festivities, to U.S. Independence Day and Diwali in India, many events have become almost synonymous with the spark and spectacle of mini explosions lighting up the night sky.
Like many other plant-based foods and products, CBD oil is one dietary supplement where "organic" labels are very important to consumers. However, there are little to no regulations within the hemp industry when it comes to deeming a product as organic, which makes it increasingly difficult for shoppers to find the best CBD oil products available on the market.
Charlotte's Web<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDcwMjk3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzQ0NjM4N30.SaQ85SK10-MWjN3PwHo2RqpiUBdjhD0IRnHKTqKaU7Q/img.jpg?width=980" id="84700" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a2174067dcc0c4094be25b3472ce08c8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="charlottes web cbd oil" data-width="1244" data-height="1244" /><p>Perhaps one of the most well-known brands in the CBD landscape, Charlotte's Web has been growing sustainable hemp plants for several years. The company is currently in the process of achieving official USDA Organic Certification, but it already practices organic and sustainable cultivation techniques to enhance the overall health of the soil and the hemp plants themselves, which creates some of the highest quality CBD extracts. Charlotte's Web offers CBD oils in a range of different concentration options, and some even come in a few flavor options such as chocolate mint, orange blossom, and lemon twist.</p>
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By Sean Fleming
What goes around comes around, according to the old saying. And in the case of the circular economy, that's certainly true.
Regenerate, reuse, recycle. Ellen MacArthur Foundation
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By Jessica Corbett
A joint report on Monday highlighted the pressure that President-elect Joe Biden is already facing to deliver on his environmental justice campaign promises—particularly when it comes to the 34 Superfund sites nationwide for which there is no reliable cleanup funding—the largest backlog of "unfunded" sites in 15 years.
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Many people shop online for everything from clothes to appliances. If they do not like the product, they simply return it. But there's an environmental cost to returns.
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Secondhand Clothing Sales Are Booming – and May Help Solve the Sustainability Crisis in the Fashion Industry
By Hyejune Park and Cosette Marie Joyner Armstrong
A massive force is reshaping the fashion industry: secondhand clothing. According to a new report, the U.S. secondhand clothing market is projected to more than triple in value in the next 10 years – from US$28 billion in 2019 to US$80 billion in 2029 – in a U.S. market currently worth $379 billion. In 2019, secondhand clothing expanded 21 times faster than conventional apparel retail did.
The Next Big Thing<p>The secondhand clothing market is composed of two major categories, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/20932685.2019.1684831" target="_blank">thrift stores and resale platforms</a>. But it's the latter that has largely fueled the recent boom. Secondhand clothing has long been perceived as worn out and tainted, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/0959396032000101372" target="_blank">mainly sought by bargain or treasure hunters</a>. However, this perception has changed, and now many consumers consider secondhand clothing to be of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/20932685.2019.1576060" target="_blank">identical or even superior quality</a> to unworn clothing. A <a href="https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/fashion/a31085526/how-to-sell-clothes/" target="_blank">trend of "fashion flipping"</a> – or buying secondhand clothes and reselling them – has also emerged, particularly among young consumers.</p><p>Thanks to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17543266.2017.1346714" target="_blank">growing consumer demand and new digital platforms</a> like Tradesy and Poshmark that facilitate peer-to-peer exchange of everyday clothing, the digital resale market is quickly becoming the next big thing in the fashion industry.</p><p>The market for secondhand luxury goods is also substantial. Retailers like The RealReal or the Vestiaire Collective provide a digital marketplace for authenticated luxury consignment, where people buy and sell designer labels such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermès. The market value of this sector <a href="https://www.retail-insider.com/retail-insider/2020/3/the-rise-of-pre-owned-luxury-fashion-marks-shift-amid-sustainability-movement" target="_blank">reached $2 billion in 2019</a>.</p><p>The secondhand clothing trend also appears to be driven by affordability, <a href="https://www.marketwatch.com/story/covid-19-propels-an-already-surging-secondhand-clothing-market-2020-06-23" target="_blank">especially now, during the COVID-19 economic crisis</a>. Consumers have not only <a href="https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/economy/spotlight/economics-insights-analysis.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduced their consumption of nonessential items like clothing</a>, but are buying <a href="https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Industries/Retail/Our%20Insights/The%20State%20of%20Fashion%202019%20A%20year%20of%20awakening/The-State-of-Fashion-2019-final.ashx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">more quality garments</a> over cheap, disposable attire.</p><p>For clothing resellers, the ongoing economic contraction combined with the increased interest in sustainability has proven to be <a href="https://www.marketwatch.com/story/covid-19-propels-an-already-surging-secondhand-clothing-market-2020-06-23" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a winning combination</a>.</p>
More Mindful Consumers?<p>The fashion industry has long been associated with <a href="https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications/a-new-textiles-economy-redesigning-fashions-future" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">social and environmental problems</a>, ranging from poor treatment of garment workers to pollution and waste generated by clothing production.</p><p>Less than 1% of materials used to make clothing are currently recycled to make new clothing, a <a href="https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications/a-new-textiles-economy-redesigning-fashions-future" target="_blank">$500 billion annual loss for the fashion industry</a>. The textile industry produces <a href="https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/putting-brakes-fast-fashion" target="_blank">more carbon emissions than the airline and maritime industries combined</a>. And approximately <a href="https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/putting-brakes-fast-fashion" target="_blank">20% of water pollution across the globe</a> is the result of wastewater from the production and finishing of textiles.</p><p><a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/solitairetownsend/2018/11/21/consumers-want-you-to-help-them-make-a-difference/#efe999c69547" target="_blank">Consumers have become more aware</a> of the ecological impact of apparel production and are more frequently demanding apparel businesses <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/pamdanziger/2020/05/10/coronavirus-will-force-fashion-to-a-sustainable-future/#6973567f5292" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">expand their commitment to sustainability</a>. Buying secondhand clothing could provide consumers a way to push back against the fast-fashion system.</p><p>Buying secondhand clothing increases the number of owners an item will have, extending its life – something that has been <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/ijcs.12354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">dramatically shortened in the age of fast fashion</a>. (Worldwide, in the past 15 years, <a href="https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications/a-new-textiles-economy-redesigning-fashions-future" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the average number of times a garment is worn before it's trashed</a> has decreased by 36%.)</p>
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By Zheng Chen and Darren H. S. Tan
As concern mounts over the impacts of climate change, many experts are calling for greater use of electricity as a substitute for fossil fuels. Powered by advancements in battery technology, the number of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads is increasing. And utilities are generating a growing share of their power from renewable fuels, supported by large-scale battery storage systems.
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="15499060d7b57be67100758264d9f877"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/iFchfHH0qzg?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Hazardous Contents<p>Batteries pose more complex recycling and disposal challenges than metals, plastics and paper products because they contain many chemical components that are both toxic and difficult to separate.</p><p>Some types of widely used batteries – notably, lead-acid batteries in gasoline-powered cars – have relatively simple chemistries and designs that make them straightforward to recycle. The common nonrechargeable alkaline or water-based batteries that power devices like flashlights and smoke alarms can be disposed directly in landfills.</p><p>However, today's lithium-ion batteries are highly sophisticated and not designed for recyclability. They contain hazardous chemicals, such as toxic lithium salts and <a href="https://www.britannica.com/science/transition-metal" target="_blank">transition metals</a>, that can damage the environment and leach into water sources. Used lithium batteries also contain embedded electrochemical energy – a small amount of charge left over after they can no longer power devices – which can cause fires or explosions, or <a href="https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/e/5/e5530917-434d-451c-8a6b-c5cdfad1b5ec/EED12407A6BF7DE6C86A4B39C25CF6A4.greenberger-testimony-07.17.2019.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">harm people that handle them</a>.</p>
<div id="007de" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="34d57a5a359e141bcf74c9b1f66eae5f"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1026491976722468865" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">The dangers of disposing of lithium batteries improperly - Battery blamed for Guernsey recycling site blaze https://t.co/Xcs76DI520</div> — Daniel Kinsbursky (@Daniel Kinsbursky)<a href="https://twitter.com/kbirecycling/statuses/1026491976722468865">1533569733.0</a></blockquote></div>
Safer and Simpler<p>While it will be challenging to bake recyclability into the existing manufacturing of conventional lithium-ion batteries, it is vital to develop sustainable practices for solid-state batteries, which are a next-generation technology expected to enter the market within this decade.</p><p>A solid-state battery replaces the flammable organic liquid electrolyte in lithium-ion batteries with a nonflammable inorganic solid electrolyte. This allows the battery to operate over a much wider temperature range and dramatically reduces the risk of fires or explosions. Our <a href="http://zhengchen.eng.ucsd.edu/" target="_blank">team of nanoengineers</a> is working to incorporate ease of recyclability into next-generation solid-state battery development before these batteries enter the market.</p><p>Conceptually, recycling-friendly batteries must be safe to handle and transport, simple to dismantle, cost-effective to manufacture and minimally harmful to the environment. After analyzing the options, we've chosen a combination of specific chemistries in next-generation all-solid-state batteries that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1557/mre.2020.25" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">meets these requirements</a>.</p><p>Our design strategy reduces the number of steps required to dismantle the battery, and avoids using combustion or harmful chemicals such as acids or toxic organic solvents. Instead, it employs only safe, low-cost materials such as alcohol and water-based recycling techniques. This approach is scalable and environmentally friendly. It dramatically simplifies conventional battery recycling processes and makes it safe to disassemble and handle the materials.</p>
Rules for Battery Recycling<p>Developing an easy-to-recycle battery is just one step. Many challenges associated with battery recycling stem from the complex logistics of handling them. Creating facilities, regulations and practices for collecting batteries is just as important as developing better recycling technologies. China, South Korea and the European Union are <a href="https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/d/c/dc43cdc9-ef56-4f8c-b442-d325aa8acf72/D775B276380B37ABF9A49BFD581DD1A5.sanders-testimony-07.17.2019.pdf" target="_blank">already developing battery recycling systems and mandates</a>.</p><p>One useful step would be for governments to require that batteries carry universal tags, similar to the internationally recognized standard labels used for plastics and metals recycling. These could help to educate consumers and waste collectors about how to handle different types of used batteries.</p><p>Markings could take the form of an electronic tag printed on battery labels with embedded information, such as chemistry type, age and manufacturer. Making this data readily available would facilitate automated sorting of large volumes of batteries at waste facilities.</p><p>It is also vital to improve international enforcement of recycling policies. Most battery waste is not generated where the batteries were originally produced, which makes it hard to hold manufacturers responsible for handling it.</p><p>Such an undertaking would require manufacturers and regulatory agencies to work together on newer recycling-friendly designs and better collection infrastructure. By confronting these challenges now, we believe it is possible to avoid or reduce the harmful effects of battery waste in the future.</p>
Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels convert sunlight into energy and continue to play an essential role in the fight to stop the climate crisis. As the pioneering panels of the early 2000s near the end of their 30-year electronic lives, however, they are at risk of becoming the world's next big wave of e-waste.
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By Alex Thornton
The Australian government has announced a A$190 million (US$130 million) investment in the nation's first Recycling Modernization Fund, with the aim of transforming the country's waste and recycling industry. The hope is that as many as 10,000 jobs can be created in what is being called a "once in a generation" opportunity to remodel the way Australia deals with its waste.
Waste Mountain<p>The need for a dramatic increase in Australia's recycling capacity pre-dates the COVID-19 pandemic. <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-27/where-does-all-australias-waste-go/11755424" target="_blank">Australians create approximately 67 million tons of waste a year</a>, and like in many wealthy countries, much of that was sent overseas. That all changed when China announced it was <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/10/china-has-banned-foreign-waste-so-whats-the-future-of-world-recycling" target="_blank">banning the import of a huge range of foreign waste</a> and recyclables. Soon <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/05/malaysia-flooded-with-plastic-waste-to-send-back-some-scrap-to-source" target="_blank">other countries followed suit</a>, and Australia was forced to look for alternative solutions.</p>
Biggest exporters of plastic. Statista
Waste Export Ban<p>Australia has adopted a strategy of taking responsibility for its own waste. Starting in January 2021, it is phasing in <a href="http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste-resource-recovery/waste-export-ban" target="_blank">bans on the export of different forms of waste</a>. By mid 2024, Australia's home-grown recycling industry will have to deal with an extra 650,000 tons of waste plastic, paper, glass and tires.</p><p>"As we cease shipping our waste overseas, the waste and recycling transformation will reshape our domestic waste industry, driving job creation and putting valuable materials back into the economy," federal environment minister Sussan Ley said in a <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-australia-waste/australia-to-set-up-132-million-fund-to-boost-recycling-following-export-curbs-idUKKBN247060" target="_blank">statement to Reuters</a>.</p>
Timeline for Australia's waste export ban. Australian Government
Trash Into Treasure<p>The benefits to the environment of boosting recycling rates are well known – less landfill, less plastic in our ocean, reduced need for virgin materials, and lower carbon emissions. The Recycling Modernization Fund initiative aims to divert more than 10 million tons of waste from landfill, part of an <a href="http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste-resource-recovery/publications/national-waste-policy-action-plan" target="_blank">overall strategy to reduce the total waste generated per person by 10%</a>, and push <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/7381c1de-31d0-429b-912c-91a6dbc83af7/files/national-waste-report-2018.pdf" target="_blank">Australia's total resource recovery rate from 58% in 2017</a> to 80% by 2030.</p><p>But like many countries, Australia is focusing on the economic benefits of better waste management as well.</p><p>"This will mean Australia converts more waste into higher valued resources ready for reuse locally by manufacturers and brands in their packaging and products," Rose Read, CEO of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council, <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-australia-waste/australia-to-set-up-132-million-fund-to-boost-recycling-following-export-curbs-idUKKBN247060" target="_blank">told Reuters</a>.</p>
Green Jobs<p>The great potential of the circular economy to create green jobs is being recognized across the world.</p><p>In the UK, the Waste and Resources Action Program has launched a <a href="https://wrap.org.uk/buildbackbetter" target="_blank">six-point plan which it claims could add $90 billion to the economy, and create 500,000 new jobs</a>. Investment in the circular economy forms a significant part of the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan that Democratic candidate Joe Biden</a> is taking into November's US presidential election. And the <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_940" target="_blank">European Union has put its Green New Deal at the heart of its plans for recovery</a> from the economic shock of COVID-19.</p><p>The World Economic Forum's <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_Future_Of_Nature_And_Business_2020.pdf" target="_blank">Future of Nature and Business</a> report identifies 15 systemic transitions with annual business opportunities worth $10 billion a year that could create 395 million jobs by 2030.</p><p>As is the case with Australia's Recycling Modernization Fund, a combination of private enterprise and government investment can offer ways to get people back to work by building a more environmentally sustainable economy.</p>
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By Ashutosh Pandey
Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
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By Brigitte Osterath
Yogurt pots, shampoo bottles, coffee-to-go lids, bubble wrap — plastic products are all composed of the same building blocks: long carbon chains.
Heating them to high temperatures makes the carbon chains crack into a mixture of shorter molecules, ultimately converting them back into crude oil, the resource from which the majority of plastic products were originally made.
Big Business<p>Several companies have made significant investments in chemical recycling, building facilities to test various ways of making what is allegedly more environmentally friendly oil. So far, it's still in the development and test stage.</p><p>In 2018, multinational chemistry giant BASF launched ChemCycling — a project that aims to generate a so-called pyrolysis oil from plastic waste. The company claims it can be used in the production of new polymers, which it says will save fossil fuel resources.</p><p>Austrian oil and gas company OMV has built a pilot plant which it says can process all common packaging material such as polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene.</p><p>The plastics are chopped down, mixed with a high-boiling solvent and heated in a furnace at over 300 degrees Celcius (572 degrees Fahrenheit). Once the product has been distilled and the solvent filtered off, the company is left with synthetic crude oil, which it claims is "free of sulfur, lighter than fossil crude oil and with a higher hydrogen content — therefore of higher quality."</p><p>The product can be refined to make fuels such as gasoline, kerosene and diesel or petrochemical products.</p><p>The plant has the capacity to convert 100 kilos of waste each hour, OMV told DW. But a planned successor facility would be able to process 2,000 kilos hourly.</p><p>Similar pilot plants are being constructed in other countries across Europe.</p>
Behind the Hype<p>So, can chemical recycling solve our waste problem through the creation of fuels?</p><p>Roman Maletz, a researcher at the Institute of Waste Management and Circular Economy at the Technical University in Dresden, is not convinced.</p><p>The idea of recycling plastic trash by cracking it, he says, is neither new nor revolutionary. It has just never worked before.</p><p>"In the past, such plants always ran into problems when in continuous operation," Maletz said. "I don't see how these issues could suddenly be resolved."</p><p>Problems arise when the trash contains too many different materials or when it is too dirty.</p><p>"In that case, the quality of the product is lowered, and the whole process becomes economically unviable."</p>
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By Chiara Cecchini
Although it is difficult today to divert attention from the dramatic situation we live in, it is even more important to get closer to our primary needs. Recently, we celebrated World Water Day, and the timing couldn't have been more appropriate to give to all of us the chance to rethink priorities and draw some lessons.
What Can We Do About It?<p>Now that the whole world is experiencing the effects of a major disaster, we have the opportunity to re-evaluate some of our choices. COVID-19 has transformed everyday life so significantly that the effects are already visible from space, showing us that change is possible and results are tangible. COVID-19 is teaching us (among other things) that our eagerness for creation should not result in the destruction of our planet.</p><p>Here are five simple things we can all start doing to have a healthier relationship with water and our environment in the future.</p>
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