As electronics become ubiquitous in our lives, understanding what happens to them when we throw it should be concerning. All too often, more waste ends up in landfills than in recycling centers. At Newtech Recycling, that’s exactly what we’re trying to prevent.

Here’s why:

No Federal Laws for E-Waste Disposal

Unfortunately, federal laws do not require individuals and businesses to dispose of e-waste so that it can be recycled. Some states have made laws to slow the increase of e-waste being tossed into landfills, and in some states, it is illegal to choose not to recycle used electronics. On the federal level, however, there is very little regulation regarding the disposal of electronic devices such as cell phones, computers, and the like.

Harmful Chemicals and Metals

Circuit boards and other components have hazardous chemicals and metals that leach out of landfills and into waterways. When the components burn, the plastics release harmful chemicals like dioxins (also called POPs, or Persistent Organic Pollutants) into the air. The effects of e-waste on water, air, and soil can be very detrimental to the health of people living and working nearby, causing such health issues as lead poisoning, respiratory sickness, and even cancer.

Large Items Occupying Landfills

While smartphones and other personal devices continue to shrink in size, larger electronic devices like video cameras, DVD players, televisions, and desktop computers occupy significant space in landfills. When consumers bring these items to recycling centers, the metals and circuit boards can be repurposed in new devices and other creative ways. 

Other large items in landfills include household items like kitchen appliances, toys, power tools, video-game consoles, and lamps. 

Some people argue that irreparable e-waste cannot be recycled. This is far from the truth. ITAD companies processing e-waste can remove the chemicals and metals so they can be reused elsewhere. Innovative artists and designers repurpose parts that no longer work, like broken circuit boards and covers.

Slowing the Mining Process

Nearly all electronics have metals like gold, silver, and copper in them. The planet has a limited supply of precious metals, so choosing not to recycle them is wasteful. When metals aren’t recycled, mining companies have to use more energy, water, and natural resources to scour the earth to replace them. 

By utilizing server equipment recycling, companies do not need to use environmentally harmful mining practices to replace copper, palladium, silver, and gold. These practices pollute the air and water. Instead, innovative companies can use safer technologies to remove metals from the devices, slowing new mining. 

Along with burying precious metals in landfills, when e-waste is not recycled, harmful chemicals and metals like lead and mercury end up polluting the soil and groundwater. 

Shipping E-waste to Other Countries

The United States creates millions of tons of e-waste annually. Rather than recycling and processing e-waste in the country, much of the processing is in other countries. Recyclers in the US are shipping e-waste overseas, where countries remove the valuable metals and parts to use in new products. 

While recycling benefits the environment, the cost and resources used to ship e-waste overseas negate some of the benefits. The majority of e-waste ends up in China, where labor costs are much cheaper than in the US, and where federal laws are even more lax. The US could save money and natural resources by doing the same work within its own borders, while also strengthening the economy by employing more US workers.

Processing E-Waste for New Products

Processing e-waste involves separating the plastics and metals from the exterior and the interior components. To make it worthwhile, companies have to choose methods that make the components valuable to other manufacturers. Removing the plastic and shredding it gives other manufactures resources to use for new products. 

To remove the recyclable materials, companies need workers who can separate the valuable commodities. They often do this on a conveyor belt or with a strong magnet that pulls iron and steel away from the circuit boards and other components. 

Companies then need to devise ways to remove the gold, silver, aluminum, and copper from the e-waste. Many rely on water to separate glass, plastic, and other materials. Companies that use water separation technology can use reclaimed water to reduce reliance on more limited natural resources and raw materials.  

Help Newtech Recycling Keep E-Waste Where it Belongs

Many components in today’s electronics are manufactured using chemicals and metals that are dangerous to the environment, including mercury, lead, and cadmium. Some of these substances act as poisonous neurotoxins, while others can cause lung damage when inhaled. When improperly disposed of, e-waste introduces toxic chemicals into the air we breathe and the water we drink.

E-waste is just as damaging to the economy, wasting precious resources and increasing the scarcity (and thus the cost) of available materials. For anyone that cares about leaving behind a healthy economy and environment for future generations, proper e-waste recycling is critical.

Get in touch with Newtech Recycling today and help us build a better tomorrow.