Why recycle your old electronics?

Leaf for inserts 150There are two main areas of reasoning for doing so, Resource Conservation and Pollution Prevention.  Americans generate over 200 million units of electronic waste a year – but only a small percentage is getting recycled. It will find its way into our landfills or will stay stored in your closets and garages. One contaminates our landfills with heavy metals and is a waste of commodities and the other is costing us space and keeps e-clutter in our lives.

2000px-recycle001-svgResource Conservation

Electronics contain many valuable, recoverable materials such as aluminum, copper, gold, silver, plastics and steel. These materials can be recovered and cycled back through the manufacturing process. This lowers the need for virgin materials and the extraction of raw materials from the earth. Using reclaimed commodities uses less energy, creating less greenhouse gas.

Examples (www.epa.gov/recycle):
  • Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in a year.
  • For every million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.

Reuse and refurbishing of electronics, do they still have potential for use? On average, about 30% of electronic equipment will still have a viable reuse. Most e-waste recyclers will check for potential reuse and resale value of the equipment before breaking it down for commodity processing. Continuing the life cycle of equipment and lowering the market cost for recycling services.

2000px-recycle001-svgPollution Prevention

Electronics contain a host of hazardous substances and heavy metals; lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and bromides used as flame retardants. All the circuitry uses trace amounts of these materials that may not be hazardous on an individual basis, but when they are sent to our landfills by the ton, the cumulative effect is toxic and dangerous. Over time, electronics will leach out the heavy metals when exposed to moisture, creating potential for ground water contamination.

Industry Quotes

“Unwanted computers, monitors and TVs – referred to as electronic waste or “e-waste” – is the fastest growing waste stream in the U.S. With technology constantly changing, we replace our electronics every few years. In 2007 alone, Americans generated about 232 million units of computer and TV-related e-waste, only 18 percent of which was recycled. In addition, it’s estimated that 235 million more units are stored in our basements, closets and garages.” Oregon Department of Environment.

“A large amount still finds its way to the landfill. Current Low Recycling Rates Combined with the rapid growth, recent recycling rates are still inadequate. For example, for 2009, the U.S. EPA reported that only eight percent of cell phones were recycled by weight, along with 17 percent of televisions, and 38 percent of computers.” Recycling.about.com

In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, we are fortunate to have access to many sources for electronic recycling, donation options and downstream collectors, brokers and processors – businesses and consumers both can make choices to easily recycle their electronics. Let’s beat the national average, and get our electronics out of our closets and landfills and to responsible electronic recyclers!