The Why and How of Electronics Recycling

You may have asked yourself, is electronics recycling really that important and what happens to that old, outdated equipment anyway?

Lets take a look at some recent statistics as reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Start with that nearly two billion electronics devices (televisions, computers, cell phones, PDAs, iPods, monitors, etc.) have been sold in the United States over the past 24 years. Of these two billion products, the EPA estimates that 180 million of them are being stored somewhere in the home or in other storage spaces in the country. They also state that in 1998 approximately twenty million computers alone became obsolete. As of 2007, that figure became over forty million computers. Electronics items made up nearly 2% of all solid waste disposed of in the United States.

These statistics are startling and what is even more disturbing is that these trends will continue and escalate exponentially. Every year technology is updated at a more rapid pace and the devices we are using today will become obsolete much quicker. Not only do our landfills have no room for this excess of waste materials, but electronics are actually categorized as hazardous waste due to the mercury, minerals, and chemicals used in their production. The only safe and environmentally supportive solution is electronics recycling.

What Happens To Electronics Slated for Recycling?

Unfortunately, old equipment, such as computers, has a very short life. While some of the components, such as the case, can be reused, often the electronics, such as motherboards and cathode ray tubes, cannot be salvaged. They simply do not fit or do not work with today’s machines. Their only value, then, is in the metals, such as silver, gold, and platinum, which can be recovered through electronics recycling.

Recovering metals in a used or outdated computer is a process which needs much care. E-waste plastics contain high concentrations of chemicals known to be toxic to humans. It is not as easy as simply ripping the computer apart, caution must be taken to make sure personal safety as well as environmental safety.

In years past, such a task was delegated to workers in foreign countries, such as China. Most collectors of recycled electronics equipment just shipped them off since it was more economically feasible to do so. Today, more electronics recycling facilities are handling the arduous task of extracting metals here at home, where greater safety measures are enforced. An extra benefit is that it creates jobs for American workers and keeps the materials right here where they are easily recycled into alternate products.

Clearly there is a real need for electronics recycling. Be sure you do your part by properly disposing of your electronics devices. You may even want to take it one step further and start your own business collecting and distributing used electronics equipment to facilities who can recover the useable components.