Why We Need to Fully Embrace Recycled Tech

More companies turn to renewed materials

Key Takeaways

  • Gadgets are a significant contributor to global warming.
  • Logitech says that 65 percent of the mice and keyboards are made with recycled plastics.
  • The European Union recently proposed banning integrated batteries in phones and other gadgets.
Young women working on the production line in factory

serts / Getty Images

Using computer components made of recycled materials could help save the planet, experts say. 

Logitech says that 65 percent of its mice and keyboards are made with recycled plastics. It’s part of a growing effort by manufacturers to cut down on electronic waste. 

"From toxic chemicals to microplastics in water supplies, there are a lot of problems that plastics pose for the planet," Ted Dhillon, CEO of FigBytes, a company that helps organizations track sustainability, told Lifewire in an email interview. "The more we can recycle the substance, the better for the environment."

Sustainable Stuff

Logitech promotes its products that use recycled materials with the term "New Life Plastics." For example, its ERGO M575 Wireless Trackball Mouse is made with 71 percent recycled plastic in its graphite version and 21 percent in its off-white version. The MX Keys Mini is made with 30 percent recycled plastic in its graphite version and 12 percent in its pale gray and rose styles.

Logitech says 8,000 tons of new plastic was eliminated in its products last year. The move equates to an estimated 19,000 tons of CO2 saved across the products’ lifecycle, or the equivalent of an average passenger vehicle driving 1,740 times around the Earth.

"Now, all consumers have a breadth of choice when it comes to selecting mice and keyboards that are aligned with their sustainable lifestyle preferences," said Delphine Donne-Crock, general manager of creativity and productivity at Logitech, in a news release. "By using post-consumer recycled plastic as our preferred material at scale, we have been able to take meaningful action to make sustainable living easy for consumers as well as make a substantial impact towards decreasing our carbon footprint."

Many other manufacturers are incorporating recycled plastic into their products, Dhillon said. Matt & Nat, a handbag company, uses 100 percent recycled plastic water bottles to line their bags; Ford uses recycled plastic to make underbody shields on their vehicles.

Recycling commitments are increasingly the centerpieces of tech companies' e-waste policies, Stewart McGrenary, the director of recycling company Freedom Mobiles, said in an email. Many big tech-producing companies like Amazon, Dell, Microsoft, and Apple have 'take-back programs' that allow consumers to send back old devices to be reused or recycled. Sometimes, they’re offered a trade-in price towards a new device.

Saving the Planet

Gadgets are also a major contributor to global warming. A recent report identified the electronics industry as one of the eight sectors accounting for more than 50 percent of global carbon emissions and warns it is the fastest growing waste stream on a global scale. Every aspect of the tech development process produces carbon emissions, including the mining of materials, device production, and distribution.

"The use of recycled materials in the development of new technologies reduces our reliance on mining and bolsters the circular economy, allowing old technology to be sustainably disposed of and recycled to aid in the production of new tech," Tony Perrotta, the president of e-waste company Greentec, said in an email. "This also ensures fewer tech devices are left in landfills, leaching harmful toxins into waterways and soil."

"The more we can recycle the substance, the better for the environment."

Around the world, government regulation is starting to recognize the need for device recycling and other measures to cut down on waste. The European Union recently proposed banning integrated batteries in phones and other gadgets. 

New regulation on batteries in Europe will also consider carbon footprint from manufacturing, collection, recycling, and use of recycled content, then the sustainable sourcing and the clear labeling of the batteries.

"Existing legislation for batteries does not explicitly address lithium batteries, despite them quickly becoming the dominant battery chemistry and leaving behind a vast environmental footprint. Lithium batteries are found in everything from smartphones to scooters, electric cars, and energy storage for smart grids," Right to Repair, an environmental advocacy group, said in a news release.

Recycling container filled with old computer electronics with sky in the background

njgphoto / Getty Images

The ultimate solution to e-waste might be not buying new gadgets, some observers say. It’s likely that the market for buying used electronics will grow and businesses will offer compensation for tech when it’s not in working order, Benjamin Dierker, the director of public policy at the nonprofit group Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure, said in an email interview. 

"With the global push toward renewable energy and electrification, far more mining activities will be needed, making recycling even more critical to extract every last usable component from our would-be trash to satisfy the market demand for rare earth metals, precious metals, plastics, and more," he added.

Was this page helpful?