Electronic waste is the world's most valuable waste, yet less than 20% of e-waste is recycled correctly every year. This means that $60 billion of value is lost annually. As an illustration of the missed opportunity of our linear model: there is 100 times more gold in a tonne of e-waste than in a tonne of gold ore.
E-waste is also incredibly toxic if not disposed of properly: e-waste in landfill contaminates soil and groundwater, putting food supply systems and water sources at risk. In particular, e-waste has been identified by research studies as a common source of heavy metals and chlorinated organic compounds such as arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium and PCBs, which are carcinogenic, teratogenic and mutagenic, putting communities at risk of cancer, congenital disabilities and mutagens.
Let's take a more extensive view than e-waste. A total of 92 billion tons of materials are used in our economy annually, responsible for 50% of GHG emissions and 90% of biodiversity losses. About 90% of those materials, and the energy used to make them, are lost after only one use.
Concretely, the problem is that producers sell the equipment and leave it up to customers to try and get the most out of them and dispose of them safely: the people that produce our stuff – businesses – aren't incentivized to look after the earth's resources or the products they make with them.