As a professional in the e-Waste recycling business, I live in constant fear of fires. Keeping toxic materials out of our environment, and providing much needed precious metals without using extractive methods is such an important service for our whole community. Our job however, gets harder and riskier as time goes on. Electronics are increasingly harder to repair, and recycle.
Lithium batteries are the most common cause of fires in facilities like ours. In order to recycle electronics all batteries must first be removed to avoid fires during the shredding process, this step however is getting harder to do. Take Airpods for example, there are not one, but three embedded lithium batteries – one in each earpiece, and one in the charging case. This type of manufacturing brings profit to manufacturers, and convenience to consumers, but the risks are put onto the recyclers and our employees.
e-Waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world. Looking to the future, recycling will need to be a part of the circular economy to keep our precious metals from going to waste. We need to make manufacturers pay the cost of recycling and manufacture repairable electronics.
MARIA JENSEN (she/her)
Environment, Health and Safety Specialist at Repowered