Cleaning Up the E-Waste Mess: Big Tech Needs to Do More

PC Mag has produced an article about e-waste, covering the issue from a number of angles including the Right to Repair:

Some highlights:

The latest report from The Global E-waste Statistics Partnership calculates that in 2019 alone, the world produced 53.6 megatons of e-waste, and less than 18% of that was documented and recycled.

An interesting quote from our friend Nathan Proctor about the situation in the USA:

“Lawmakers have said their phones have blown up with opposition lobbyists as the legislation moves forward, and many lawmakers have said they were frankly stunned by the aggressive nature of the opposition in their lobbying,” Proctor said. “Lawmakers deal with many sensitive topics, and yet they are still surprised at the corporate opposition to right to repair. It will take a lot of public engagement to overcome the onslaught of industry lobbying.”

It would have been good to see a little more about the upstream impacts of electronics production too, as this is another important argument for the Right to Repair.

And I might quibble a little with this analysis:

Manufacturers have a list of reasons for discouraging device repair by consumers or third parties—privacy, safety, and so on—but one argument rings true: that even if repair were easy and accessible, people would still be likely to move on to a new device instead of fixing the one they have. It’s a mentality that the industry has been very successful in creating by introducing replacement devices at regular intervals, which last only until the next ones are released. Combined with how few people even bother to recycle the devices they put aside, it’s likely that even if the right to repair was the law of the land, it would make a negligible difference in the amount of e-waste generated each year.

While I’d definitely agree that manufacturers work hard to generate demand and ‘FOMO’ for their newest, shiniest products (as covered extensively by The Lightbulb Conspiracy), I think a lot of people would actually prefer to repair their current devices instead of buying a newer modal, especially outside the world of computing devices. How many people really enjoy shopping for washing machines, toasters or vacuum cleaners?


And perhaps PC Mag and its peers need to acknowledge how complicit they are in promoting these practices.