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Error: cannot recycle these electronics

Australia will be home to around 12 million tonnes of e-scrap next year. In fact, research shows this waste stream is growing three times faster than any other.

Researchers from Monash University found people find it hard to say goodbye to their old electronics because they have ‘strong emotional attachments’ to them. Across three studies with 650 people, frugality was cited as the second recycling obstacle. After all, electronics don’t come cheap.

In fact, at least 50% of the study participants say they own one or two computers. In some cases (16%), people have four or more computers at home. On average, people tend to hold onto old computers for over six years.

Video: how the mobile phone market changed since the 90s

Reasons why people ‘hoard’ electronics:

  • I don’t like throwing things away that still work
  • Annoyance: it was expensive when I bought it.
  • Second life: maybe I can fix it or reuse parts?
  • I want to give my electronics to someone else when I no longer want them (but end up keeping them myself)
  • Back-up: What if my new device breaks down?
  • Why get rid of it? The device is not taking up much room
  • I’m not sure my electronics will be recycled properly
  • I don’t know where to take them yet, I’ll figure it out later
  • More than gadgets: they contain photographs, favourite songs, documents I worked on for school
  • I simply use my old computer as a storage unit
  • Keep for show: they don’t make them anymore (vintage cameras, walkman etc.)
  • I may want to watch that old home video again
  • Memories: I got it for my birthday/it belonged to…
  • What if…. This could be worth a lot of money someday

Lead author Dayna Simpson says today’s consumers are forming a personal relationship with their handheld devices, notably mobile phones. ‘We use them every day and take them everywhere with us,’ she notes. ‘Besides, we store a lot of data on them and we get quite familiar with them.’

The latter can also be said about ‘smart’ equipment that can be easily tailored to understand the preferences of their users. It’s interesting to note that upwards of 86.2 million smart speakers were sold worldwide in 2018. What’s more; China will be home to 85.5 million smart speaker users this year, surpassing the 74.2 million sold in the US.

Let’s not forget that such gadgets are typically replaced after two years – when the latest model hits the market. It’s safe to say the ‘smart home’ trend will start popping up in the recycling stream in the coming months.

Do you want to take a chance and try fixing your gadgets at home? Take a look at the detailed iFixit repair database.

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One thought on “Error: cannot recycle these electronics

  • One advantage of holding on to electronics is that you won’t add to the world’s e-waste. It’s really important that there are electronics recycling facilities in every city to make e-waste recycling more convenient to the majority of the population.

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