As the modern age of technology continues to offer humanity a wide range of electronic tools and gadgets that become obsolete within less than a year, the demand for solutions to electronic waste have skyrocketed. Unfortunately, many electronics are thrown out with the standard garbage instead of being recycled, especially when people don’t understand the value of those devices when collected and repurposed. There are plenty of reasons why you should recycle as much of your waste as possible, but electronics come with a whole host of reasons specific to that type of waste. Electronic waste is totally different from most standard garbage, not only because of its complexity, but because of the materials used to produce it. Below is a list of just a few of the most important reasons to recycle your old and outdated electronic devices.
- Environmental Hazards
Everyone is aware of the detrimental effects of pollution and littering on the environment, but many people don’t know how dangerous electronic devices are to the planet. The reason for the added danger is that electronic waste often contains components made from highly toxic materials. These materials might include lead, mercury, chromium, beryllium, cadmium, or chemical additives that prevent fires. Due to the known risks involved with electronic waste, it is illegal to dump such waste with standard garbage in many US states. Much of the electronic waste that doesn’t get recycled ends up in landfills in third world countries since many of them don’t have laws against such pollution. This not only pushes the problem onto someone else, but it forces the problem onto those who have no way to deal with it. Third world countries often accept refuse from more powerful countries in exchange for certain provisions or other forms of repayment. Once the material is present, toxic chemicals start to seep into the water supply, and the remainder of the electronic waste, which includes a whole host of valuable material, is ignored, buried, or burned.
The high cost of most electronics is due to the high cost of the components that form them. In many cases, it is the material itself that is valuable, not necessarily the design of the device. Recycling useful material from obsolete electronics is vital for cutting costs associated with obtaining these valuable materials. For instance, laptop batteries are often discarded without a second thought, but recycling just one million of these batteries would save enough energy to power about 3,500 standard American homes for a whole year. Many internal computational components can be repurposed as well. There are about 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, 33 pounds of palladium, and 35,000 pounds of copper within one million cells phones. With the commonality of the smartphone and the fast rate at which people upgrade to new mobile devices, we cannot afford to ignore the vast resources available to us in our outdated devices.
One of the most commonly overlooked facets of electronic waste is the potential for data theft or collection from obsolete computers. Computer hard drives, or any sort of storage media, might not be properly wiped before being thrown out, which would be like a law office disposing of records without shredding them first. Improperly erased hard drives pose a legitimate risk of stolen data, even if that data is backed up. However, when you recycle electronic waste, most prominent recycling facilities will use powerful machines to shred hard drives separately from the remainder of the material. Physical destruction of a hard drive is the most effective way to destroy the data saved within it. Many countries have put in place stringent security standards for recycling electronics not only to protect their citizens but to protect themselves as well. In the past, certain sensitive documents have surfaced in third world countries where computer hard drives from the US were dumped. These sorts of security breaches will not happen in a world where proper electronic recycling is a common practice.
- Job Creation
There is an entire industry waiting to form around the idea of electronic recycling, and that industry has already started to take shape. Businesses have started popping up that focus specifically on processing electronic devices for recycling, and those businesses have to be staffed by someone. “Properly recycling electronic waste is a labor-intensive task, especially when you consider how much intricate knowledge is required to perfectly harvest all the valuable material from an obsolete device,” according to Device Pitstop. There are many different ways to recycle electronic waste, and there are just as many companies looking to provide those services for standard consumers, small businesses, and large corporate clients. Less than half of all electronic waste is properly recycled, and if the remainder of that waste had to be processed through proper recycling channels, the job market for the electronic recycling industry would explode.