Broken, surplus, and obsolete electronic items are electronics waste, which we also call e-scrap or e-waste. Every year, millions of tablets, laptops, computers, TVs, and mobile phones approach the end of their useful life and become e-waste. Electronic waste contains toxic chemicals and materials that get into the environment if it accumulates in landfills. Yet, that is exactly where the majority of it ends up. So, what should we do with electronics waste? Take it to a reputable e-waste management company.
Benefits of Recycling Waste
An e-waste management company will take your old electronics hardware and perform electronic recycling and computer board recycling. Recycling electronics waste protects our planet and various resources. It also protects humans. Here are some of the benefits of e-waste recycling:
Recovery of valuable resources
Recycling e-scrap recovers gold, silver, platinum, copper, titanium, lithium, cobalt, aluminum, iron, tin, and fossil fuels from old electronics devices and puts these valuable resources into new electronics products. Even the metals, glass, and plastics in e-waste are reusable.
Saving of electricity
The EPA states that recycling one million laptops saves enough energy to run 3,657 US households for one year.
Electronic devices contain toxic heavy metals such as PVC plastic, cadmium and beryllium, mercury, lead, brominated flame retardants, and other hazardous chemicals. These things harm human health, the environment, and contaminate the water supply. This pollution is greatly reduced by e-waste management because recycling does not allow for the dumping of electronics waste into landfills.
Landfill space conservation
One by one, the states in the US are passing laws that demand e-waste management.
Reduced production waste
The Electronics TakeBack Coalition states that it takes 40 pounds of chemicals, 530 pounds of fossil fuel, and 1.5 tons of water to manufacture just one computer and monitor. This means the production process burns 81% of the energy that is associated with each computer – the years spent using them only take 19%.
With millions of devices in need of tedious electronic recycling and computer board recycling, there are plenty of e-waste management job openings.
The Valuable Resources Waste Problem
According to blogs.ei.columbia.edu, the value of recoverable materials in global electronics waste in 2016 was estimated to be $64.6 billion. Only about 20% of that was being recycled.
Cell phones are the most frequently discarded electronics item. According to one article, one million cell phones contain 33 pounds of palladium, 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, and 75 pounds of gold.
Reclaiming valuable resources from unwanted electronics is much easier than mining for them. This “urban mining” that e-waste management companies do makes sense. According to a recent study done in China, traditional mining costs 13 times as much as the electronic recycling of things like aluminum, gold, and copper contained in e-waste costs.
The world continues to escalate the use of electronics products, which increases the demand for precious metals and other valuable resources that go into making them. Electronics manufacturers are already experiencing shortages in raw materials.
Electronic Recycling Challenges
- More than half of the world’s collected e-waste is exported to developing nations. The inadequate environmental controls in the recycling companies there allow various kinds of health and environmental problems to form.
- The quality of e-waste is decreasing. Devices are being made smaller and smaller, so they contain few precious metals in them. This has caused some recycling businesses to close.
- Electronics are being made to better protect information than in previous generations of the products. This also makes these items hard for recyclers to get into them to recycle, repair, and offer up for reuse.
The Electronics Recycling Process
Recycling electronics can be difficult, depending on the sophistication of the devices. These products are made with different amounts of plastics, metals, and glass. Also, the process of separating the various materials will vary, depending on what is being recycled and what technologies are being used.
Recyclers put electronics take-back booths or collection bins in particular places such as in Walmart stores.
Recyclers collect and transport the e-waste to recycling facilities.
Shredding, sorting, and separation – The various materials that make up electronics must be cleanly separated so they can be used to make new products.
Recyclers shred the collected devices into pieces as small as 100mm. This facilitates the extraction of iron and steel from everything else through the use of a powerful overhead magnet. Next, mechanical processing separates the copper, aluminum, and circuit boards, leaving mostly plastic and some glass. Water separation technology extracts the glass. Metal remnants are the last items to be separated from the plastics.
Preparation for sale
The raw materials are prepared for sale as raw materials that will be used to make new electronic products.
Choosing an E-Waste Management Company
It is important for the health of humans and the environment that your electronics waste is properly disposed of. Because of the many unscrupulous global dumping operations that present themselves as responsible e-waste recycling companies, you’ll need to ask any prospective recycling partners a series of questions. That is the only way you can be assured of their integrity.
- Ask the recycling company what their address is
A responsible recycling business will have facilities where they operate. If the company spokesperson dodges your question regarding the address, his company likely participates in global dumping.
- Ask to see the recyclers permit to operate
A legal recycling business would have a permit and be willing and able to show it to you.
- Ask the company for proof of their commitment to the environment
Recycling companies all claim to be committed to the environment, but you’ll want to know for sure how committed to the environment the company you are considering actually is. Some sort of proof of their commitment would assure you that the business is likely a responsible recycler. Certifications are a good indication of commitment to a cause. The company should be able to show you certification by either the R2 or the e Stewards EPA-endorsed standard programs.
- Find recycling companies who educate the public about e-waste
You want a recycling partner who makes positive impacts on human health and the environment. It would be even better if that partner is part of the solution through education of the public about the proper disposal of electronics waste.
- Ask how recycler handles data security
It is critical that sensitive information is destroyed, whether you are recycling customer electronics or your own electronics. Nobody wants their private information shared with others or misused.
Ask whether they shred, degauss, or wipe data. Some recyclers will offer you a certificate of hard drive destruction to verify that your personal information was destroyed. You’ll want to make sure that if you are considering a recycler who refurbishes various electronics gadgets that you specify in the contract that all personal information will be wiped from all devices. Get it in writing in the statement of work or in your final contract.
- Know what you need
The first thing you need to do is to understand in detail what you need the e-waste company to do. That’s because recycling companies will ask you detailed questions about your recycling requirements. Here is how you prepare:
- Consider the sources of e-waste in your facilities
- Gauge how much e-waste your facilities produce weekly, monthly, or quarterly.
- List the kinds of e-waste that your facilities commonly produce. Are they finished products or mostly accessories? Does the company accept and process the kind of scrap you have?
- Set up meetings
Once you have taken a personal inventory, start contacting recyclers. Have local vendors meet with you at your business. If good customer service is important to a company, their spokesperson will want to meet with you and see your facilities. Before they arrive, consider signing a non-disclosure agreement if you think you’ll exchange information with them or give them a tour. Your visitor will ask you what you need, and you’ll have your list prepared.
- Choose Recycling Businesses that charge favorably
You will be able to judge a lot about the recycling company by how they charge you. Any problems in this area may indicate that the company cuts corners in the recycling process, behind the scenes. So, see if the company:
- Charges you responsibly, not overly concerned about profiting off you
- Has a favorable attitude toward negotiating prices
Most recyclers will charge for some kinds of items, but compensate for others. If they charge you, the fees are based on the weight of the materials and what you’re recycling. You may be offered money by the pound for hard drives, but then charged a nominal amount for inkjet printers.
You can expect recyclers to tell you what they charge or pay upfront. Sometimes you can negotiate a little. Check the commodity prices often because they fluctuate, affecting the value of the gold, silver, copper, and other metals in your electronic items. The company may haul off your pile of electronics free of charge, but you’ll need to be sure they will consider shipping costs.
In the negotiation phase, you may want to ask potential vendors these questions:
- Are there items you won’t take?
- How much do you pay for laptops, etc.?
- How much are your transportation charges?
- Would you give me a certificate of destruction or other proof the hard drive was destroyed?
- Do you have environmental certifications?
- Could you come get individual boxes or pallets or do you only pick up by the truckload?
- Do you require a minimum volume?
- How often can you come pick up electronics?
About Electronic Recycling and Computer Board Recycling
Telecommunications, electronics, and computer scrap contains the following kinds of circuit boards that recyclers want:
- Aviation circuit boards
- Military circuit boards
- Tablet circuit boards
- Cell phone boards
- Telecommunications and networking equipment boards
- Server and mainframe boards
- Server and mainframe backplanes (pin boards)
- Server and mainframe cards
- Hard drive circuit boards (but no cases or platters)
- Daughter cards, such as expansion, video, and network cards, etc.
- Desktop and laptop motherboards
Other kinds of circuit board scrap include:
- Shredded circuit board scrap
- Motherboard scrap
- E waste-scrap
- Electronic scrap
- Printed circuit board scrap
- Circuit board scrap
- Computer scrap
Recycling companies will likely only take circuit boards that do not have cadmium/beryllium, mercury switches or any batteries. They’ll also won’t want excess metal such as aluminum or copper heat sinks on the items they take in.
Advantage of Using a Recycling Company that Refurbishes Electronics
Some recycling companies may want to specialize in electronic recycling and computer board recycling and not want to deal with whole computers, monitors, hard drives, power supplies, or anything else at all.
But, if you find a company who refurbishes electronic items, you’re in luck because they will want all of the parts. They will not only want your computer CPU, monitor, and keyboard, but they’ll want the power cable, computer mouse, and any other accessories the owner used with it.
They’ll want all of your unwanted technological devices and even some of the batteries used. You can get rid of audio/video equipment, networking equipment, video game consoles, digital converter boxes, cable receivers, satellite receivers. They’ll want CRT, projection, flat screen, plasma, and console TVs too.
Electronics Recycling Laws
As of October of 2019, 25 US states had laws in place that mandated e-waste recycling statewide. Though passed in half of the states, these laws cover 65% of the population. Indiana, Illinois, Connecticut, California, and other states have also banned e-waste from landfills. Other states are working toward passing similar laws.
An astonishing 80% of technology items are tossed rather than recycled, even though they contain precious metals. Manufacturers are already running into shortages of the metals they need. Electronics are also filled with harmful toxins, and US states are passing e-waste management laws to correct the problem. Electronic recycling and computer board recycling is part of e-waste management. E waste management companies who also refurbish electronic items accept much more of the unwanted parts and accessories.