The World’s E-Waste Has Reached a Crisis Point

A new UN report finds that humanity is generating 137 billion pounds of TVs, smartphones, and other e-waste a year—and recycling less than a quarter of it.

Matt Simon,, March 20, 2024

The phone or computer you’re reading this on may not be long for this world. Maybe you’ll drop it in water, or your dog will make a chew toy of it, or it’ll reach obsolescence. If you can’t repair it and have to discard it, the device will become e-waste, joining an alarmingly large mountain of defunct TVs, refrigerators, washing machines, cameras, routers, electric toothbrushes, headphones. This is “electrical and electronic equipment,” aka EEE—anything with a plug or battery. It’s increasingly out of control.

As economies develop and the consumerist lifestyle spreads around the world, e-waste has turned into a full-blown environmental crisis. People living in high-income countries own, on average, 109 EEE devices per capita, while those in low-income nations have just four. A new UN report finds that in 2022, humanity churned out 137 billion pounds of e-waste—more than 17 pounds for every person on Earth—and recycled less than a quarter of it.

That also represents about $62 billion worth of recoverable materials, like iron, copper, and gold, hitting e-waste landfills each year. At this pace, e-waste will grow by 33 percent by 2030, while the recycling rate could decline to 20 percent. (You can see this growth in the graph below: purple is EEE on the market, black is e-waste, and green is what gets recycled.)

“What was really alarming to me is that the speed at which this is growing is much quicker than the speed that e-waste is properly collected and recycled,” says Kees Baldé, a senior scientific specialist at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and lead author of the report. “We just consume way too much, and we dispose of things way too quickly. We buy things we may not even need, because it’s just very cheap. And also these products are not designed to be repaired.”

Humanity has to quickly bump up those recycling rates, the report stresses. In the first pie chart below, you can see the significant amount of metals we could be saving, mostly iron (chemical symbol Fe, in light gray), along with aluminum (Al, in dark gray), copper (Cu), and nickel (Ni). Other EEE metals include zinc, tin, and antimony. Overall, the report found that in 2022, generated e-waste contained 68 billion pounds of metal.

To access the full article, click here. 

To learn about ReturnCenter and how we’re tackling the e-waste crisis, visit our About Us Page.

Universities swapping energy sources to geothermal now a growing trend

Universities swapping energy sources to geothermal now a growing trend

The “power of the Earth” provides some of the most sustainable energy options.

Julia Jacobo,, March 1, 2024

Some of the most established universities in the country are switching to sustainable energy to power their campuses in an effort to meet climate goals.

Bard College, a private liberal arts college in New York’s Hudson Valley, has broken ground on a state-of-the-art geothermal heating and cooling system that will replace the decaying oil system that was previously powering the Charles P. Stevenson Jr, Library, the school announced earlier this week.

t is one of many colleges utilizing ground geothermal source technology that installs pumps in the ground that then circulates a temperature-adjusted fluid to the surface using a series of pipes in a closed-loop system.

Geothermal energy is “one of the oldest forms of energy in the book,” previously used by the Romans, Native Americans and ancient Chinese civilizations, Caitlin Grady, an assistant professor of engineering management and systems at George Washington University, told ABC News. The energy is also a prime example of using the planet’s natural resources to generate power, she said.

“You’re talking about using gravity and water to power buildings … using what the Earth has to offer for free,” Grady said.

Bard’s newest project will consist of 50 boreholes drilled to a depth of 500 feet, which will contain the geothermal loops and thermally enhanced grout, according to Brightcore.

The school, founded in 1860, has been incorporating geothermal energy into its new buildings since the 1980s. But this is the first time a legacy building — previously powered by oil-fire boiler plant and conventional chiller system — will be retrofit for geothermal energy.

To access the full article, click here.


Cheese Byproduct Transforms E-Waste into Gold

Cheese Byproduct Transforms E-Waste into Gold: ETH Zurich’s Groundbreaking Innovation

BNN Correspondents,, February 29, 2024

ETH Zurich researchers develop a novel method to extract gold from e-waste using cheesemaking byproducts, paving the way for sustainable technology.

In an astonishing leap towards sustainable technology, researchers led by Professor Raffaele Mezzenga at ETH Zurich have developed a novel method to extract gold from electronic waste using a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. This innovative approach not only promises to revolutionize gold recovery but also offers a cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution to a growing global challenge.

From Dairy to Gold: The Science Behind the Innovation

The team, including senior scientist Mohammad Peydayesh, has ingeniously utilized denatured whey proteins to create a sponge capable of extracting gold from the acid-dissolved metal parts of old computer motherboards. The method hinges on the proteins’ ability to form nanofibrils that adhere to gold ions more efficiently than to other metals. Following the absorption process, the gold ions are reduced to flakes and then melted down to form a nugget. Remarkably, the researchers obtained a 450-milligram nugget of 91 percent pure gold from just 20 motherboards, demonstrating the method’s efficiency and potential for scalability.

To access the full article, click here.

These Are the Climate Grannies. They’ll Do Whatever It Takes to Protect Their Grand children

Jessica Kutz,, February 3, 2024

They have the generational wisdom, environmental activism experience, free time—and they’re not afraid of getting arrested.

Hazel Chandler was at home taking care of her son when she began flipping through a document that detailed how burning fossil fuels would soon jeopardize the planet.

She can’t quite remember who gave her the report — this was in 1969 — but the moment stands out to her vividly: After reading a list of extreme climate events that would materialize in the coming decades, she looked down at the baby she was nursing, filled with dread.

“‘Oh my God, I’ve got to do something,’” she remembered thinking.

It was one of several such moments throughout Chandler’s life that propelled her into activist spaces — against the Vietnam War, for civil rights and women’s rights, and in support of other environmental causes.

She participated in letter-writing campaigns and helped gather others to write to legislators about vital pieces of environmental legislation including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, passed in 1970 and 1972, respectively. At the child care center she worked at, she helped plan celebrations around the first Earth Day in 1970.

Now at 78, after working in child care and health care for most of her life, she’s more engaged than ever. In 2015, she began volunteering with Elder Climate Action, which focuses on activating older people to fight for the environment. She then took a job as a consultant for the Union for Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit science advocacy organization.

To access the full article, click here. 

How our drinking water could come from thin air

Martine Paris,, February 5, 2024

From solar panels that produce water to ‘self-filling’ coffee machines and water coolers, technology companies are putting a new spin on a centuries-old technique.

In the dry, desert air of Las Vegas, it seems strange to be talking about a plentiful source of water all around us.

Southern Nevada is in the grip of one of the worst droughts it has experienced in recorded history, leading to water shortages and restrictions on use. So, in water-stressed areas such as this, the prospect of wringing water from thin air is an appealing prospect. And it is exactly what Cody Friesen is trying to do.

Friesen, an associate professor of materials science at Arizona State University, has developed a solar-powered hydropanel that can absorb water vapour at high volumes when exposed to sunlight.

It is a modern-day twist on an approach been used for centuries to pull water from the atmosphere, such as using trees or nets to “catch” fog in Peru, a practice that dates back to the 1500s and is still being used today.

Amid the flashy transparent televisions and electric vehicles at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January, there were a few start-ups claiming to have new ways of exploiting this ancient, and often overlooked source of clean drinking water. And with the help of artificial intelligence, they’re finding ways of pulling even more water out of the air.

Friesen founded his own company Zero Mass Water in 2014 following his research on solar-powered hydropanels. Today the company is called Source Global, operates in more than 50 countries and has a private valuation of more than $1bn (£800m).

To access the full article, click here. 

AI could accelerate progress toward the world’s climate goals. Here’s how

Kate Brandt and Rich Lesser,, December 18, 2023

The world must dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to meet Paris Agreement goals. Yet based on current trajectories, emissions are set to rise by 10% over the next eight years. This will only accelerate widespread droughts, flooding, extreme heat, and other devastating impacts across the globe.

Against this challenging backdrop, it is clear that acceleration is needed across all fronts of climate action. One of those opportunities lies in artificial intelligence (AI). Research shows that by scaling currently proven applications and technology, AI could mitigate 5 to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030–the equivalent of the total annual emissions of the European Union. For the first time, AI was highlighted at COP28 as one of the key potential solutions to tackle climate change, with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) announcing the AI Innovation Grand Challenge at the conference to identify and support the development of AI-powered solutions for climate action in developing countries.

Reversing the emissions trajectory will take everyone involved–government officials, business leaders, and technologists–all rowing the boat in the same direction. Policymakers have a central role to play, with three critical priority areas that will allow AI to contribute to its full potential.

First, policies must enable AI innovation and adoption for climate-positive applications. Data sharing frameworks, investment in research, affordable technology access, and education initiatives are needed to drive development and deployment. Government has a key role to play as an end-user. In the absence of clear community, national, or sector-specific objectives for climate action, AI-driven innovation could go off in disjointed directions. Resource allocation would be inefficient. Establishing priority innovation domains where AI could most immediately and effectively advance climate action–such as leveraging AI for flood-resilient farming, climate change adaptation, and accelerating the energy transition–can unlock resources and focus minds.

To access the full article, click here. 

Nine breakthroughs for climate and nature in 2023 you may have missed

By Future Planet team,, December 14, 2023

In a tumultuous year, the positive milestones for the climate and nature might well have gone under your radar. Future Planet rounds up nine quiet wins of the year, plus one much louder one.

Record-setting spending on clean energy in the US. A clean energy milestone in the world’s power sector. A surge in lawsuits against polluters. A treaty for the oceans 40 years in the making.

This year has seen some remarkable steps forward in tackling the nature and climate crises.

But in a year like 2023, it’s natural our attention has been drawn to the environmental disasters that have dominated the headlines. Add to that our “negativity bias”, which affects the information we are most drawn to, and you can see why any positive developments over the past 12 months feel very quiet by comparison.

Some breakthroughs also don’t get shouted about because they are being led by grassroots communities or indigenous groups whose voices are often marginalised. And sometimes, as we’ll see, a climate win is quiet for a reason.

This is why we’ve gathered some of the “quiet wins” of 2023 for the climate and nature, to make sure these breakthroughs don’t escape our attention.

Here are nine positive developments worth your notice, plus one louder change.

1. A huge boost for clean energy

In the US, the green energy transition has received a massive boost from the Inflation Reduction Act. Passed in 2022, the bill includes $369bn (£294bn) for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support clean energy and encourage electrification. It was quickly welcomed as the largest climate investment in US history, although it isn’t at all obvious from the legislation’s name – perhaps making it the definition of a “quiet” climate win.

To access the full article, click here.

The surprising connection between eco-anxiety and loneliness

James Arnott and Shannon Stirone,, December 19, 2023

Recent research shows that the unfolding crises in climate change and social isolation may actually be connected.

The climate crisis isn’t just altering our physical environments. It could even be transforming our minds and how we connect to each other.

Many people are experiencing escalating anxiety levels about the potential for extreme weather events and the safety of their homes, property, and livelihoods. Still more are numbed by general ennui about how the planet and our existence are being fundamentally altered. And evidence is growing that in addition to altering our environment, the climate crisis could be transforming our minds.

“Climate change is inside us,” said Clayton Aldern, a neuroscientist and author of the forthcoming “The Weight of Nature: How a Changing Climate Changes Our Brains,” one of a number of recent books and studies that delve into how climate change affects our brains, our mental health, and the connections we make with each other.

A connection to loneliness

Researchers are finding that the climate crisis is unfolding alongside crises in mental health and social isolation — and suggest some striking ways these issues may be intertwined. The collective stress, fears, and isolation caused by climate-related events, dubbed eco-anxiety, could be making people more lonely, in turn hurting health, relationships, and collective ability to act.

To access the full article, click here.

Ringing in a Green New Year: Sustainable Resolutions for 2024

As we bid farewell to another year and usher in the promise of a fresh start, many of us are contemplating New Year’s resolutions that not only benefit us but also contribute to a healthier, more sustainable planet. Embracing eco-friendly habits can make a significant impact, and what better way to kick off the year than with resolutions that align with the greater good? 

Mindful Consumption: Make a conscious effort to support sustainable brands and products. Opt for items with minimal packaging or those made from recycled materials. Choosing quality over quantity not only reduces waste but also supports businesses committed to eco-friendly practices. 

 Plastic-Free Living: Pledge to reduce single-use plastics in your daily life. Invest in reusable bags, water bottles, and containers. Be mindful of your plastic usage, and seek alternatives whenever possible. Small changes can lead to significant environmental benefits. 

 Greener Transportation: Explore sustainable transportation options, such as walking, biking, carpooling, or using public transit. If feasible, consider switching to an electric or hybrid vehicle to decrease your carbon footprint and contribute to cleaner air. 

 Energy Efficiency: Evaluate your energy consumption at home. Simple changes like switching to LED bulbs, using energy-efficient appliances, and unplugging devices when not in use can lower your energy bills and reduce your environmental impact. 

 Green Gardening: Whether you have a spacious backyard or a few potted plants on your balcony, embrace sustainable gardening practices. Composting, using natural fertilizers, and choosing native plants can create a more eco-friendly outdoor space. 

 Tech Recycling: Dispose of old electronic devices responsibly. ReturnCenter makes it easy to safely recycle your cell phones, tablets, and laptops while giving you the option to support a charity or nonprofit with the remaining value of your device. Get started on your return 

 Mindful Water Usage: Conserve water by fixing leaks, using water-saving appliances, and being conscious of your daily water consumption. Small adjustments, such as turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, can collectively make a big difference. 

 Charitable Giving: Make a resolution to support charitable causes. Choose organizations that align with your values and contribute to positive change. Many charities, like those supported by ReturnCenter, are dedicated to environmental conservation and social impact. 


Remember, sustainable living is a journey, not a destination. Start with one or two resolutions and gradually incorporate more eco-friendly practices into your lifestyle. By making conscious choices, we can collectively work towards a more sustainable future. Happy New Year!  

Navigating a Sustainable Holiday Season: A Guide to Thoughtful Gift-Giving  

As the holiday season approaches, many of us are on the lookout for meaningful gifts that align with our commitment to sustainability. In a world where conscious consumerism is gaining momentum, finding eco-friendly gifts is a thoughtful way to celebrate the spirit of the season. Here are some tips to guide you in selecting sustainable presents for your loved ones: 

Prioritize Quality Over Quantity: Opt for gifts that are built to last, crafted from durable materials that stand the test of time. Not only does this reduce the need for frequent replacements, but it also minimizes the environmental impact associated with manufacturing and disposal. 

Support Local and Small Businesses: By choosing gifts from local and small businesses, you contribute to the growth of the community while reducing the carbon footprint associated with shipping. Look for artisans and creators who prioritize sustainable practices in their production processes. 

Choose Reusable and Recyclable Products: Select gifts that promote a waste-free lifestyle. Items such as reusable water bottles, eco-friendly tote bags, and sustainable kitchenware are not only practical but also contribute to a greener planet. 

Explore Experiences Rather Than Material Gifts: Consider gifting experiences, such as memberships, workshops, or tickets to events. Experiences create lasting memories without leaving a lasting impact on the environment. Plus, they often support local businesses and cultural institutions. 

DIY and Upcycled Gifts: Tap into your creative side and consider crafting homemade gifts or upcycling existing items. Handmade presents showcase thoughtfulness and effort, and upcycling helps repurpose materials that might otherwise go to waste.

When you can’t avoid the new tech, recycle the old! Sometimes the need to gift a new gadget cannot be avoided. Luckily thanks to ReturnCenter it’s easy to recycle your outdated phones, laptops, and tablets with just a few clicks. Get started here.   

As you explore sustainable options for your loved ones, remember that the impact extends beyond the holiday season. May this season of giving be a celebration not just of moments, but of our collective effort to create a brighter, more sustainable future. 🌲🌍 #SustainableGifts #GreenHolidays #GiftWithPurpose #RecycleResponsibly