The electronic recycling industry has evolved quickly over the past years to deal with the growing problem of e-waste – and how it should be properly disposed of. This is good news – we have access to the latest techniques for recycling that are easier than ever and increasingly available to homes and businesses. However, the fast development of the industry has also created a lot of myths and false beliefs about e-waste recycling which are no longer true, or simple the result of misinformation. Let’s take a look at the worst offenders.
1. E-Waste Ends Up in Landfills Anyway
An experienced recycling organization uses a number of processes to ensure that e-waste doesn’t end up in landfills. That includes refurbishing or re-using electronics, harvesting valuable components from electronics, and recycling specific materials for use in other industries – all long before a landfill is even considered. Even if some parts do end up in landfills, recycling efforts make sure that re-usable components (including gold and silver) are put to use again, and that toxic metals or other dangerous materials are properly disposed of instead of being sent to a landfill, where they can cause more damage to the surrounding area.
2. Only Large Electronics like Computers and TVs are Worth Recycling
Actually, the opposite is closer to the truth. You can recycle computer monitors and TVs, yes. However, you can also recycle cell phones, imaging equipment, servers, tablet computers, and much more.
This is actually very important when talking about smaller devices. Small screens for mobile devices and similar components use a lot of toxic materials that should certainly not go into a landfill. For environmental safety, it’s very important to recycle smartphones and similar products, or at least make sure they end up at an e-waste center that can properly dispose of them.
3. My City’s Waste or Recycling Departments Will Take Care of It
Some people assume that as long as they put electronics in the trash, city disposal organizations will make sure they are recycled correctly. This doesn’t happen! City recycling efforts are focused on other materials and don’t usually have the capability to deal with electronics scattered among other types of trash. Instead, look up your local guidelines for dealing with e-waste. Most cities will be able to recommend e-waste recycling centers or drop-offs to help you find the right way to dispose of electronics. You can also take a look at local recycling organizations to see if they offer any alternatives.
4. Recycling Electronic Devices is Risky Because of Data Thieves
First, most risks to data come from hackers while devices are still being actively used – after all, that’s when they’re connected to the networks and more easily available for data theft attempts. If your electronic device does have internal storage (and many recyclable devices do not), then you can quickly do a factory reset to fully erase all your data. Many recycling centers go a step further and will mechanically shred all hard drives they are given to make sure no one will be able to access data on them every again. If you want to know more about how to fully remove your hard drive data, many online resources can help you.
5. The Old Electronics Will Just Get Shipped Overseas Anyway
Actually, today’s electronic recycling organizations are trying to prevent this as much as possible. It is true that the majority of e-waste is shipped overseas, especially to China. However, this isn’t ideal: Much of that waste is hastily burned to scavenge parts or improperly buried at trash sites, which makes the problems – and toxic materials – even worse. That’s why electronic recycling services are working to make sure that electronics are recycled and disposed of properly by professionals rather than sent to another country.
6. Electronic Recycling Wastes More Energy Than It’s Worth
It does not, especially when considering some of the rare components in today’s electronic devices. Recycling valuable metals, for example, takes less energy than mining and refining new metals of the same kind. Additionally, the long-term effects of letting toxic materials leach into the ground and potentially poison the surrounding landscape can be more expensive than any recycling efforts. Finally, keep in mind that recycling is its own thriving industry that creates jobs and opportunities for people while also looking for more efficient ways to produce energy, so there’s a net benefit for everyone.
7. The Recyclable Materials in Devices are Too Little to Bother With
If it’s better and more energy-efficient to recycle materials than to throw them away, then it doesn’t matter how small the amount is. However, even small amounts can add up quickly into sizable returns. One million cell phones, for example, can provide 35,000 pounds of copper, 22 pounds of palladium, 772 pounds of silver, and 75 pounds of gold when properly recycled. Now think about how many millions of cell phones are replaced in the United States alone every year, and you can see how recycled materials can really make a difference.
8. E-Waste Isn’t Actually That Harmful
On the contrary, e-waste – especially mobile devices – can be dangerous. The two worst offenders are lead and mercury, infamous toxic materials that can easily leach into the surrounding environment and have proven damaging effects on human development and nervous systems. Other toxic elements with similar or worse effects found in today’s smartphones include cadmium, barium, lithium, polybrominated flame retardants, and other materials that you don’t want anywhere near a landfill or an incinerator.
For more information on e-recycling opportunities, you can explore Stream Recycling’s services and find out how we can partner with your organization today!