The market for e-waste recycling is set to hit $44.3 billion by the end of the decade, more than four times its current size.
Despite global economic troubles, hardware production continue to grow, meaning more and more products are consigned to the trash heap. Such e-waste creates a headache for vendors and manufacturers, posing health risks in equipment dumping grounds, as well as being an environmental hazard.
Hardware disposal also means writing off valuable metals found in components. These mountains of disused hard drives, processors and other components which have been thrown away are potentially worth large amounts of money when materials such as iron, steel, copper, and zinc are extracted from them.
Many computer components also include amounts of precious metals such as a gold, silver and platinum. According to the United Nations Environment Program, one metric tonne of e-waste contains more gold than 17 metric tonnes of gold ore. Such retrieval is potentially dangerous, however, as hazardous material such as lead, mercury and arsenic gets burnt in the retrieval process.
According to analysts at GBI Research, the market for reusing and recycling these materials is growing as tech products continue to be churned out, rendering old products obsolete within a smaller timeframe. This is in part due to the tougher legislation being put in place by the likes of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive, which aims to ensure e-waste is not continually dumped on the doorstep of developing countries without a second thought.
Analysts claim this will mean that, by 2020, the cash generated by managing hardware disposal, reusing and recycling will also grow. According to GBI, e-waste spending should hit $44.3 billion by 2020, up from $11.8 billion last year.
This should lead to improvements on the current situation – whereby computers made by big name brands are turning up on the rubbish dumps around the world despite vendors touting their green credentials.
This is also creating problems for those who are binning their unwanted products, and unwittingly opening themselves up for identity theft.