How to Recycle Electronic Waste

Welcome to my post on “How to Recycle Electronic Waste.”

It is always advisable to invest in solid equipment; in so doing, they give you peace of mind and last very long. The result – you save money on buying lots of…say headphones for instance every 1 or 2 months!

 

Take for instance, a solid pair of headphones could last up to 4 years or even longer! This also reduces the amount of garbage you generate.

 

If you enjoy gaming or you’re simply a kid or an adult, chances are you have some electronic gadgets be it at school, in your home, business or office.

 

I’m sure at some point you may have had old electronics lying around in your homes or offices. How did you get rid of it? Or maybe the question I should ask is …do you still have them lying around.. not knowing what to do with them? Well, there is a solution so please read on…

 

So after your electronic equipment comes to the end of its life what do you do with them?. Toss them in the garbage, or find ways to reuse or recycle them…Obviously the second option sounds like a good plan!

 

What is Electronic Waste?

 

 

Electronic waste also known as ewaste is electronics that are close to their end of life and as such you have no use for them.

Good examples are headphones, mouse, laptop, tablets, desktop, keyboard. Other examples include televisions, stereos, fax machines.

Now many of these examples listed above can be reused, recycled or given to someone else who needs them. So before you toss them out, ensure you have exhausted these options first!

Electronic waste contains harmful chemicals such as cadmium, lead, mercury and beryllium. So if electronics waste is not disposed of the right way and all we are doing is place them in our garbage, it will end up in landfill polluting the environment and contaminating everything around us including air, soil and water!

 

Imagine This Scenario

Imagine planting fruits and vegetables in soil contaminated with chemicals! Hmm..that is why nonchalant attitudes

must stop now so that we don’t end up paying dearly for it. We all want

to live to see our children’s children’s children ….isn’t it?

So the time has come for us to stand up and do the right thing by recycling electronic waste efficiently in such a way that it will not cause harm to mankind. More on this…but in the meantime, I would like to give you some statistics first so please read on…

A little bit of History

The amount of electronic waste generated around the world is growing at an alarming rate and this is obvious in the figures. In 2014, the ewaste generated was 44.4 million metric tonnes (Mt) but 2 years after that, the weight jumped up to 44.7 million metric tonnes (Mt)!

Now here is the sad news, only 20% of the ewaste of year 2016 was actually recycled! It makes you and I wonder…what happened to the remaining 80%?

The truth is many of the examples listed above can be reduced, reused or recycled and it is up to us to do something about it!

 

Electronic Waste and the Developing Nations

 

Another sad story is that the electronic waste is shipped to Developing Countries in the name of “Philanthropy”.

Some companies in the developed countries ship ewaste to developing countries like Ghana in the name of “philanthropy”. How sad!

Electronic waste in their volumes have made their way to developing countries where you can see heaps lying in landfills. The truth is that some people in those parts of the world see this as an opportunity to make a living from ewaste by scavenging metals from electronic waste thereby exposing themselves to harmful chemicals.

Electronic waste is dismantled manually and recycled in unethical ways with the hopes of getting out useful metals such as copper from them.

The main process these metals are extracted from electronics is by burning, which the people feel is the cheapest and fastest way not caring about the pollution arising from this act. Burning of the wires in open fields just to extract metals poses huge risk to human health and air quality.

The precious metals are then sold to those who are ready to buy. What now happens to the remaining parts of these devices after the good stuff has been taken?

Of course they end up in landfill that are not treated; where they leach into the ground and contaminate the water table! Yikes. That is depressing isn’t it?

I’m sure you now agree with me by now, that something has to be done to stop this nightmare. Wondering “How to Recycle Electronic Waste” ? Now here is what you can do to kick off your electronic waste recycling….first ensure the Recycler that will be responsible for recycling your ewaste is Certified.

 

Where To Take Your Electronic Waste for Recycling

The first thing to do in order to get your waste recycled is contact your local authority to see if they will pick up ewaste or maybe they can direct you to the right place.

Now lets say you have contacted your local authority and you are still unsure of what to do with your electronic waste, you can contact companies who specialize in recycling electronics and they will be more than happy to assist.

 

Ensure Your Recycler is Certified

Before you take your unwanted electronics to a recycler make sure they are certified. In north America, the common recycling electronic certifications are the Basel Action Network’s (BAN) e-stewards and the Sustainable Electronics Recycling International’s R2 Standard.

Now, it is important to point out that there are other recyclers who aren’t R2 or BAN certified which you can can still use; but its safer to use companies that are BAN or R2 certified.

According to Calgary Chamber, 40% of heavy metals in landfills are from electronic waste, thais is another good reason why we should recycle electronics when they die.

The good thing though is that some electronics manufacturers actually have recycling programs like this, whereby ewaste is recycled.

 

Some Notable Recyclers

  • Terracycle has a recycling program for electronic waste which is FREE. The cool thing about Terracycle is that they are known for recycling items that are also deemed non-recyclable.
  • Greentec is another company that recycles electronics.
  • Ecycle solutions is another trusted electronics recycling company with a focus on diverting such materials from landfill,

 

Reduce Reuse Recycle – How Does this Apply to Electronics?

 

The waste hierarchy states that we should Reduce, Reuse and Recycle …in this order. Now let me explain to you how this applies to electronics.

Reduce: you can reduce the amount of electronic waste you generate if you invest in solid products like these, use these items with care and ensure you clean and maintain them. That way, they last even longer.

Reuse: before you throw anything away, you can ask around and see if someone else needs them. Alternatively, donate to charity or even sell it.

Recycle: when your electronics gets to a point that it has stopped functioning, you can consider this option. If you don’t know how to go about recycling your electronic equipment, contact your local authority and they will be able to help you or direct you.

Now lets have a look at some categories of electronic waste in the next section and see how to prepare them for recycling.

 

Recycle your Computer Monitors

 

 

Computer monitors that fall in this category are the modern ones with thin film liquid crystal display and the older monitors that have a cathode ray tube, known as CRT.

Now the modern monitors contain toxic metal called mercury while the older models have a lot of lead which is also harmful. This means in order to recycle, you must ensure that these toxic substances remain in the monitors.

Now, to get the monitors ready for recycling you would need to do the following:

Unplug the power cord and remove cables from the CPU and monitor

Monitor can be heavy especially if you have the older type that were made back in the day, so you have to carry it with care when moving it from say the office to the car. You can have someone help you as well to make it easier.

Place the monitor on the seat, screen facing down. You might even want to place it on the floor of the car depending on if you have enough room. The important thing is to place it in a good spot so that the screen does not break during transportation.

Recycle Your Lightweight Electronics (desktops, laptops and small sized electronics such as tablets, cell phones and MP3 players)

 

 

In most cases, a retailer within your locality would have a computer recycling program so check with them to see if they are able to take back your old device and recycle it in an efficient and responsible manner.

 

To ensure that your laptop is recycled the proper way, ensure you take it to an authorized Recycler.

Make sure you remove the data or back up your data before taking it to the Recycler. This will help prevent identity theft.

 

It is important to recycle these particular items because valuable materials like silver and gold are located in them which can be reused. Reusing silver and gold eliminates the need for extracting virgin materials from the ground.

 

Some Ewaste Recyclers would be happy to pick old computers in bulk. If this is the case, a business can organize an Ewaste drive at work.

To organize a drive, set aside a specific day and simply let other businesses around you know so that they can bring their old computers too. The main thing here is to ensure that all old computers are brought to one location for pick up.

 

Preparing your Laptop or Desktop for drop off

 

 

Follow these steps once you’ve removed all data in order to get your desktop or laptop ready for the recycling process:

If your laptop or desktop is connected to a keyboard or any other device, separate them.

 

Did you know that you can make money from selling your unwanted items such as your tablets and cell phones?

 

Stores like BestBuy and Staples have buy back programs. You sell your electronics to them and in turn they give you a gift card that you can spend in their store. I know….. the only problem with you receiving gift cards is that if you are not ready to use gift card right away, you would have to hold onto it for a while but I see this as a form of savings.. I keep the gift card until I need it.

Single Use Batteries

 

 

Did you know that single use batteries are made up of useful materials that can be reused? Yes they are made of wonderful substances such as Zinc and Steel. This is a good reason to recycle them.

I know… some people do toss them out in the garbage. This should not be the case and so it is therefore advisable to place them aside for recycling.

There are many types of battery recycling programs everywhere – at school, offices, businesses. Some offices mail their used single use batteries to recyclers. Even by doing a simple search on google, you would find a list of reputable companies that recycle batteries responsibly.

Some cities have facilities where household hazardous waste can be dropped off while other cities have programs where such wastes are picked up from residential homes at specific times so you can look into this as well.

The Big Green Box company are experts in recycling all types of batteries. Another company well-known for recycling batteries is RMC recycling company.

Compact Discs and Tapes

 

 

Yes! I know this is a hard one because I personally have seen a lot of these in the garbage. I know some people feel that because this is made out of plastic it should be recyclable.

Let me tell you something today…CD’s and tapes are not made from the same type of plastic as plastic bottles and this makes it hard to recycle!

Also please note that your CDs should not be placed in the recycling bin. Cd cases are made from transparent or translucent plastic known as polystyrene while CDs are made from a tough and brittle plastic – poly carbonate.

Here’s what you can do with your Compact Discs and Tapes

Reuse the compact discs. Here are great ideas!

Donate the Compact discs and tapes. You might have a friend who’s a music lover and who also loves keeping music collections. Why not pass the compact discs to them. Alternatively you can just donate them to a thrift store who can resell them.

Another option is to sell them online – Kijijji, EBay and Freecycle are great places.

 

How To Recycle Your Heavy Electronics

 

 

Heavy electronics in most cases cannot be placed at the curb side with garbage. They also contain chemicals that are toxic. These harmful chemicals can only be handled safely by professionals.

At the same time, these electronics also contain valuable materials which is a good reason why they should be recycled when they reach the end of their lives.

Examples of heavy electronics are large items such as television and amplifiers.

The best practice as it applies to the 3Rs (Reduce Reuse Recycle) would be to donate it or even sell it, if it is still in working condition. You can also consider taking such items to a recycling center or a store that takes back old electronics.

Now the second option would be to drop it off at the recycling center. Some stores also have ewaste programs whereby you can drop off your old electronics, consider looking into that as well.

Alternatively, you might just want to donate it to those who need it or earn some money by selling it!

Producers Need To Take More Responsibility

Producers need to take more responsibility to manufacture products that would easily biodegrade and not harm the environment. Majority of electronics produced are made from toxic elements.

Calling out producers to take care of packaging waste is also crucial. Why can’t recycling methods be spelt out properly in the products made by producers? If this is done people would clearly know what to do with electronic waste and not throw them in the garbage. Producers can’t just stop at manufacturing products.

They need to map out a realistic plan on what people need to do once these products reach the end of their lives.

Conclusion

The “garbage problem” has made headlines in the news so many times and even recently when Philippines asked Canada to take care of their own waste.

 

Yes! The Philippines Prime Minister called our Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister to come pick up the waste they dumped on them or they would ship it back to Canada! Ouch! I don’t blame them. Why can’t every country have a proper waste management system in place with clear policies?

 

If you are having a hard time finding a recycler for certain items you want to dispose of you can check here.

 

Let’s start reducing, reusing and recycling the right way, in this manner we would be able to preserve our planet for ourselves and future generations. Also consider investing in electronic items that would last long

 

I hope you found this post helpful. Please leave a comment, I would love to hear from you.

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6 comments

  1. You said that old electronics have harmful chemicals like cadmium, lead, mercury and beryllium. Is this true for all electronics? I heard about the trash that Canada dumped in the Philippines. That is crazy! Unfortunately the Philippines doesn’t really have good Waste Management processes either, let alone decent plumbing.

    Thanks for the helpful post, it has a lot of good tips.

    1. Hi Nathan, electronics including cellphones are made up of several materials. I would say that majority of electronics are made of substances that are harmful and these substances pollute the environment; when they are thrown out as garbage. Yes, Canada and all developed nations should be able to manage their own waste though, instead of shipping them elsewhere. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  2. I think the worse thing is that developing countries do not have a waste management system or companies. And where they have a waste management service, you should see what they do with it! They just create a huge dumping site and people still live around such places. And the Philipines are no better.

    Thanks

    1. You are right. A lot of developing countries do not have a well defined waste management system in place and all kinds of waste – toxic and non toxic end up in unmanaged landfills. It is sad that people live around the landfills. 

      Whenever we can it is important to reduce our waste, if we can’t reduce we should try to reuse or recycle them. It is also important to invest in products that would last long that way we keep our garbage low. Thanks for leaving another comment.

  3. Great post! I like the subject and you gave a lot of details to help us understand even better.

    When it comes to recycling electronics waste, everybody should take it seriously. Because the chemical found in electronics can be very harmful. I have a friend who does some figurines with metals or aluminum.

    Thanks

    1. Hi and thanks for leaving a comment. I’m glad you found this post helpful. Indeed! The chemicals are toxic and this is why the recycling of electronic waste should be done the proper way by taking them to authorized recyclers who would be able to recycle them the right way.  

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