Launched in May 2016, this recycling initiative aims to provide the local community with a transparent, systematic and environmentally-friendly way to dispose off unwanted and broken electronic products. This process reduces the number of items that are buried in landfills or incinerated, with the additional benefit of preventing toxins that damage our health from being released into the air, water, and soil.
China generates roughly 6 million ton of e-waste per year, according to a UNU report.
E-waste contain a lot of toxic materials, yet roughly 70% of this waste either goes directly to landfill or is recycled through informal processes, which are damaging our environment and a risk for human health. The need to reduce e-waste is urgent and individuals and organizations can make an immediate impact.
Let's give our used electronics a safe home!
How to Participate
As a consumer, consider carefully before you make your next electronics purchase. Every purchase decision you make has an impact on the environment. However, here are ways to dispose-off your existing electronic items:
- As an individual, instead of throwing away your old or broken electronics, you can recycle them at one of our collection boxes (map link).
- If you work in a large company or a school, we'd love to place a collection box branded with your company/school logo in your premise and organize quarterly pickups. We would also come in to do a project presentation and help you organize your first electronic waste collection. Further, if your organization has large quantities of computers or telecommunication equipment that are in re-usable condition we may also be able to refurbish them put them to re-use.
- If you work in a hotel, a restaurant or a cafe, we would like to work with you to place a collection box in your premises and organize pickups. The collection box would also serve as a deposit point for the community, and your location would be added to a map with local collection points.
- If you work in an electronic product manufacturing company that would like to safely dispose off large quantities of your product, please contact us to schedule a bulk pickup.
Common items that can be recycled through the [WE] box:
- Small household appliances: Vacuum cleaner, iron, toaster, coffee machine, clock, hair dryer, electric toothbrush, batteries, etc.
- IT and telecommunications equipment: Laptop, tablet, personal computer and related equipment, calculator, telephone, mobile phone, etc.
- Media and storage devices: CD, DVD, blue-ray disc, and USB.
- Consumer electronics: Camera, musical instrument, audio device, video camera, video recorder, television screen, radio and audio system.
- Electrical and electronic tools: Drill, sewing machine, riveting or screwing tool, welding tool, gardening tool, etc.
- Toys, leisure and sports equipment: Handheld video game console, video game, electric train or car, etc.
- Monitoring and control instruments: Smoke detector, heating regulator, thermostat, measuring and weighing appliance.
Devices that cannot be recycled through the [WE] box
- Light bulbs
- Laboratory & medical devices
- Devices bigger than 30x30cm
[WE] Project Recycling Process
Used electronics that are disposed in the collection boxes would be picked up every few months and brought to a certified dismantling factory. Here, several materials and resources are extracted from the products: plastic, glass, epoxy, precious metals such as gold and silver, and non-precious metals such as copper. Some of these materials are used to make derivate products such as agglomerates for making benches and doors with plastic and epoxy, plastic chips, etc.
Drop-Off Points in Shanghai
Here's an updated list of locations where you can drop-off your electronic items (Google Map link requires VPN):
E-Waste Further Reading
E-waste encompasses all items and parts of electrical and electronic equipment that are being discarded without the intent of being reused. This broad and fast growing waste group includes computers, televisions, mobile phones, toys, and other small electronics as well as large household appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners, home entertainment and much more.
While the technological revolution may have benefited the way we live and communicate while lifting many people out of poverty, there is a looming dark side to it. Electronics is one of the largest and fastest growing manufacturing industries in the world. As a result, the demand for scarce raw materials as well as the resultant waste is growing at alarming rates. In addition, clean and safe handling and discarding of e-waste has been an ignored problem for many years leading to pollution of water, soil and air. At the national and community level there is simply not enough being done to promote awareness of e-waste and to provide solutions to help reduce the impact of the electronics boom.
We understand that data security and confidentiality are top concerns for individuals and organizations that want to take part in this project. As such, with the assistance of our recycling partner, we will ensure that all devices and electronic equipment will go through a mechanical dismantling and crushing process so that all data is destroyed in the first step of the recycling process - i.e. immediately after the collection.
For computers that may be refurbished, we will manage and ensure complete erasing of the data by a professional IT engineer prior to sending to any school or NGO. Necessary contracts will be signed between key stakeholders to ensure accountability and responsibility for data protection.
For companies that require an even higher level of data elimination and wipeout, this service may be provided by our recycling partner for an additional fee.
- We generate around 40 million tons of e-waste every year, worldwide. That is equivalent to throwing away 800 laptops every second.
- An average cellphone user replaces their handset once every 18 months.
- E-waste comprises 70% of our overall toxic waste. Only about 10 – 15% of e-waste is recycled. Part of the problem is that recycling electronics is a difficult, dangerous and expensive process.
- 85% of our e-waste is sent to landfills or incinerators, where it is mostly burned, resulting in the release of harmful toxins into the air.
- 80% of e-waste generated in the US and other developed countries are transported to Asia. A big part of this e-waste is illegally imported into China where it is landfilled or incinerated. China thus faces the twin challenge of dealing with domestic and also imported e-waste.
- E-waste contains hundreds of substances of which many are toxic. When e-waste goes into landfill or is incinerated these toxins are released into the soil, water and air harming the environment and our health. Health problems associated with such toxins include impaired mental development, cancer, and damage to the lungs, liver and kidneys.
- The most common hazardous electronic items include LCD desktop monitors, LCD and Plasma televisions and all products with Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT). The production of electric and electronic devices is a very resource-intensive activity. A UN study found that the manufacturing of a computer and its screen takes at least 240 kg of fossil fuels, 22 kg of chemicals and 1500 liters of water - more than the weight of a rhinoceros or a car.
- As an example, the life cycle energy use of a computer is dominated by production (81%) as opposed to operation (19%).
1. Prevent toxins from being released into the environment – E-waste contains hundreds of substances, many of which are toxic. This includes mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, selenium, chromium, and flame-retardants. When e-waste is not properly dismantled these toxins leak into the air, soil and water, contaminating these for all animals and humans.
2. Retrieve valuable resources – Electronic products contain precious materials such as gold and silver. The UNU reports that the various materials found in e-waste in 2014 alone were worth around US$52billion, US$10.66 billion of that was just in gold. Likewise, one metric ton of circuit boards can contain 40 to 800 times the amount of gold and 30 to 40 times the amount of copper mined from a single metric ton of ore in the United States.
3. Save energy – Recovering 10 kilograms of aluminum via recycling uses no more than 10% of the energy required for primary production. Doing so also prevents the creation of 13 kilograms of bauxite residue, 20 kilograms of CO2 and 0.11 kilograms of sulphur dioxide emissions as well as many other emissions.
4. Education and community development – Since a large percentage of computers discarded by major organizations still have plenty of life in them, after basic refurbishment they may still be useful for schools and NGOs. You may be part of one such company and could play a key role in ensuring that your organization’s old computers are put to maximum use and community building.
Further, while creating education on the negative impact of e-waste on the environment and local communities, part of the project also focuses on creating and maintaining Green IT Classrooms for underprivileged children in rural areas, thereby also promoting rural education, skill development and computer literacy for future empowerment.
5. Support enterprises involved in sustainable e-waste treatment — In cases where e-waste cannot be refurbished and/or re-used, by choosing a formal system of recycling and dismantling you support the demand for safe and clean e-waste processing companies.