Electronic waste is a relevant example to the enormous amount of resources we waste. Many million tons of televisions, phones and electrical equipment are discarded each year. Instead of discarding these electronic gadgets it would be wised to extract materials like gold, copper and other minerals to reuse. In the immediate ‘urban mining’ could take place. Urban mining is the extraction of materials from finished goods that are no longer in use but have components that are able to be use; rather than mining for new materials in nature. Additionally, urban mining has been proven to be more profitable than traditional mining (Woollacott, 2018). Studies have proven, while a gold mine can generate five or six grams of metal per ton of raw material, that figure rises to as much as 350g per ton when the source is discarded electronics.
The next phase would then be to start designing for the intent to reuse electronic bits and pieces. This is known as the circular economy. It works as a solution for recycling programs by dramatically reduce the need to throw away product. Because designs and products would be created to be easily taken apart and recycled into new products.
Why is this a problem?
It is clear nature has finite resources and we should not be looking at how to extract all of them but rather finding ways to reuse the products we have already refined.
Furthermore, Mining for the minerals and metals needed to produce your technology affect people’s economic, social, cultural, political and civil rights. According to the GAIA Foundation (2014), “When a mine displaces a farming community, it also reduces and contaminates surrounding water sources, pollutes the air and has an impact on the health and ability of communities to grow food. Mining activities affect the food sovereignty of a whole region (p. 28)”. The notion that mining brings economic development, jobs and prosperity to a particular region undermines the community’s ability to produce healthy and good food to society. It is obvious in an effort to increase the consumption of the global North, there is an unfair transfer of well-being from the South to the North.
To reverse this colonialist mentality we can do our small part to recycle our technology and request for companies to invest in recycling programs rather than more mining.
Woollacott, E. (2018, July 06). E-waste mining could be big business - and good for the planet. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/business-44642176
Rhoades, H. (2016). GAIA. ‘Mining: When is Enough, Enough?’ (Rep.). Retrieved https://www.gaiafoundation.org/post-library/mining-when-is-enough-enough/