The growth of the consumer and business electronics sectors in the last two decades has given rise to a trash problem, and that has, by extension, led to major environmental concerns. Electronics recycling programs and companies have emerged to deal with the trend, but a large amount of material still continues to go straight into the garbage without much thought. If you're curious about what you can do to make the planet a little safer and cleaner, recycling e-waste is an excellent choice.
Why is E-waste So Bad?
A wide range of products have internal components like circuit boards and batteries that contain high concentrations of hazardous materials. It's not uncommon for a single computer, phone, TV, or monitor to contact toxic materials like lead, mercury, and arsenic. When these items are placed in landfills, exposure to humidity and rainwater can cause those toxic materials to leach out into the surrounding environment.
There are also concerns about certain materials that are difficult to mine. Cadmium, for example, is often used in batteries, electronics, and electroplating processes. Worldwide production has topped off, and the largest single source of production is located in just one region: East Asia. This has led to serious questions of whether cadmium production can keep up with growing demand for use in electronics.
A wide range of materials used in modern electronics are also considered conflict metals. These are materials that are mind in politically unstable regions, such as the Congo, in order to use the proceeds to fund continued conflict. Materials like tungsten, tin, gold, and tantalum are all mined in parts of the world where they fund conflicts.
What to Do
The availability of electronics recycling in different parts of the U.S. is still very uneven. Some rural regions are highly underserved, with some not even have county authorities conducting regular programs. Other areas have public programs in place, and those programs are even competed against by private, for-profit entities. Many retailers also offer recycling options, and some even offer store credits.
Locating a nearby recycler should be relatively simple if there is one. Your local solid waste authority can tell you what to do. If there are for-profit centers nearby, you may even be able to get paid something for your recycling efforts. You should always make a point of asking what items a recycler accepts, especially with large loads or long distances involved.