Wastebaskets or pioneers? Rethinking e-wastePhoto: Eddie Codel, Flickr (Creative Commons)

Countries like China and Ghana are often depicted as the ‘wastebaskets’ for e-waste. But maybe it’s time to reconsider this perspective and recognise their role as pioneers in recycling.

Wastebaskets or pioneers? Rethinking e-wastePhoto: Eddie Codel, Flickr (Creative Commons)

Adam Minter, author of the book Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade recently wrote an essay on the way we think about E-waste. He argues it is time for a new perspective: while countries like China and Ghana have been labelled ‘electronic wastebaskets’ by some, they could also be seen as pioneers of an alternative, greener economy.

In this alternative economy, the old electronic devices that are considered ‘waste’ are turned into valuable resources. For example, the majority of old electronic devices that are imported by Ghana is reused, repaired and resold, Minter writes. And in that process, they generate local revenue.

Closing the Loop, one of the members of the GoodElectronics network, also conceptualizes e-waste as a resource. They are buying broken mobile phones to recycle them in a responsible way and to extract the valuable metals inside.

There is an important role for the electronics industry in this process: they should design their products with repair and recycling in mind to allow for optimal reuse of old devices. Minter’s article looks into the progress that brands are making on this topic. While slow, it seems that there is a movement in the right direction. Read the full article here.