How many digital cameras, iPods or mobile phones have you discarded for new models since moving to Dubai? A quick straw poll of 12 Time Out staffers revealed an astonishing 32 phones, 18 cameras and eight iPods, so you’re not alone if it’s a high number.
Still, whether that figure is big or small, the scary fact remains that, according to the International Association of Electronics Recyclers, only 13.6 per cent of electronic waste is recycled worldwide, which means more than 86 per cent of it is either sitting in drawers gathering dust or, worse, being thrown out, often finding its way to landfill. Chances are the situation can only deteriorate. The UAE’s consumer electronics market is expected to increase in value by US$3.9 billion by 2013, meaning a lot of new technologies being bought, and even more obsolete gadgets piling up.
From this week, we’re helping to make it easy for you to recycle your unwanted electronic goods, so that there’s no excuse for any of us. All you have to do is gather up all those old and broken items and take them down to your local Choithrams supermarket, where Time Out and The Green Foundation drop boxes are waiting to be filled with your unwanted devices. What happens next? Well, we’re glad you asked…
This is the easy part. Wander into any Choithrams in the UAE and get rid of all your electronic clutter using our drop boxes. They’re easy to spot – just look for Time Out and The Green Foundation logos.
The Green Foundation will collect your dropped items from Choithrams regularly. There are an estimated 90 million handsets languishing in desk drawers in the UK alone, so we’re guessing the UAE has plenty
Every item is then checked, tested and graded. There are three grades: ‘working items’, ‘non-working items’, which may have imperfections such as a cracked screen or missing keys but can be repaired, and ‘beyond economical repair’, which will be recycled. The Green Foundation has a zero-tolerance policy on landfill, so every scrap of these non-repairable items will be reused.
Once graded, all items are sent to a recycling centre in the UK. Dominic Gothard, CEO and chairman of The Green Foundation, explains: ‘We’ve found it difficult to find a high level of recycling quality and industry approval in the Middle East. At the moment our items are shipped back to the UK to maintain the best standards, but we are working to launch a 100 per cent environmentally friendly facility in Dubai.’ Watch this space.
Now in the UK, your old items will prove their worth. Let’s take the irreparable ones first. Every single part is recycled to the highest industry standards. Old electronics can be used to make a surprising array of new products, from kitchen kettles to park benches and musical instruments. Some parts will be ground up into chips and used in construction; others will be burned safely to produce energy. ‘Items that are usually discarded into landfill have the chance to have a useful life again,’ says Gothard.
What about working and non-working items? First, the latter are brought back up to working condition by technicians, making them ‘working items’. All working items are then packaged and traded into developing markets such as Africa and Asia. Gothard tells us: ‘Recently these markets have become flooded with sub-standard products, leading to a short lifespan. All items from The Green Foundation are tested so customers in these areas can get a high-quality product at a reasonable price.’ He adds that items such as mobile phones are increasingly needed in these areas. ‘Good-quality and affordable mobiles are an essential part of everyday life in developing countries, assisting in communication for healthcare and commerce.’
If clearing clutter, being green and providing affordable products to the less fortunate isn’t enough, there’s yet another bonus to using the drop boxes: The Green Foundation will donate a portion of the profits from re-trading recycled phones to Dubai Autism Centre, thus feeding your do-gooding back into the community. Nice one.
Find drop boxes at your local Choithrams supermarket from today. For more about The Green Foundation, call 04 344 3160 or see www.thegreenfoundation.me.
Over to you
A couple of months ago we asked what you do to make sure you recycle regularly in Dubai. Reader Jane Plaxton told us: ‘Recycling is important, but reducing the amount of materials used in the first place is more valuable.’ Here are her top tips for doing just that.
• ‘Do we really need a polystyrene tray for everything? Ask supermarket workers not to use them for, say, cheese, and they will oblige.’
• ‘The same is true for plastic bags. The person manning the scales will happily put the price tag on the fruit itself if you ask, with no need for the bag.’
• ‘When ordering takeaway, I ask the outlet not to include 20 knives, spoons, serviettes or whatever else they throw at you, because I don’t need them.’
• Jane also recycles something most of us forget – water. ‘I use an old 2kg yoghurt pot in the sink to catch hand/vegetable-washing water and transfer it to a bucket. At the end of the day I use it to water the trees outside.’
What can I recycle?
The Green Foundation doesn’t just recycle old phones. All electronic items can have a life beyond their time with you, and are encouraged to find their way into the drop boxes. The following is not an exhaustive list, but should give you some ideas to get started.
• Desktop PCs