Electronic waste in the US is changing

Read the full story in The Hill.

Americans spent $400 billion in 2020 on technologies like smartphones, computers, TVs and streaming media. Electronics have found their way into every aspect of modern life and work. But as products get replaced faster and repaired less, electronics are also finding their way into our trash, prompting some to call electronic waste (e-waste) the fastest growing waste stream in the world. 

But in the U.S., electronic waste is actually starting to decline. A new study, which I, Callie Babbitt, co-authored with Shahana Althaf, shows that the total weight of used electronics discarded by households shrunk 10 percent since its peak in 2015. The main reasons: technological innovation and shifting consumer preferences. For instance, households replaced bulky tube TVs with slimmer flat panel models — a shift spurred by the analog-to-digital TV transition a decade ago…

Unfortunately, many changes that make electronics lighter and more efficient end up making them harder to reuse and recycle. With less than 40 percent of used electronics being recovered in the U.S., we are wasting an enormous opportunity to capture the valuable materials and components they contain. We are also missing out on their potential contribution to the new administration’s ambitious plans to tackle climate change.

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