Topics / Computer Ethics / E-Waste


What is e-waste?

E-waste is the term used to describe old, discarded electronics that can often still have some useful life left in them.

Unfortunately these electronic items are often taken to landfills or shipped to developing countries for “reuse” or “recycling”.

Image of landfill site

The most common items found in landfills and recycling centres are TVs, mobile phones, computers (laptops & desktops), tablets, gaming consoles, and e-readers; along with various other household devices that use a battery or power cord for operation.

Why is e-waste such a big problem?

E-waste is harmful to the environment.  Discarded electronics can contain toxic chemicals and metals.

If these devices are not properly disposed of (e.g. put with other household trash) they can contaminate soil and water supplies.

Why are we producing so much e-waste?

A lot of e-waste is produced because we are constantly upgrading our electronics.

We want the latest technology and when the next model comes out, people often get rid of their old one without realising that it still has value to someone else.

In modern society it can often be cheaper or more convenient to buy new electronics rather than to repair or upgrade.

Also, due to the risk of revealing sensitive data, some companies may feel more confident in destroying their old computers rather than donating them to others.

What can we do about the e-waste problem?


Recycling electronics is a good way to protect the environment.

Recycled items can be used for other purposes, which reduces natural resource consumption and pollution from mining raw materials.

When recycling, people should choose an organisation with responsible practices. You don’t want your old electronics to end up in another country.


If you have an old item that has been replaced by new technology, donate it to someone else who can take advantage of its functionality.

Computers and laptops that still work well can be repaired for others who may need a computer but cannot afford one

Update and reuse

Fix and upgrade devices where feasible, rather then buying a complete new system.

Disposal taxes/charges

In many countries there is now a charge to dispose of your old electronics.

The fee contributes towards the cost of recycling or correctly disposing of the harmful substances inside the device.

Think about the future

Think about how we can use less electronics in general, or at least think before you purchase something and whether it’s really necessary for your life.

It is important to consider what will happen with our old electronics after they are too outdated.

Topics / Computer Ethics / E-Waste

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