Importance Of Recycling Your Electronics

Why is recycling electronics important? In this article, discover what electronics can be recycled, why they should be recycled, and where to recycle them.

Electronics have become an essential part of everyday life for most of the population. The options for which new cell phone, computer, watch, or tablet to buy are nearly endless, and with new variations coming out every six months to a year, it is easy to cast aside your old model for the newest electronics on the market. You may be tempted to put your old phone aside and let it collect dust. Even if you do not update electronics often, you are likely to accumulate devices over time. Not only is disposing of batteries illegal but disposing of electronics by throwing them away leads to toxic waste. Recycling electronics gives your old devices a new purpose and helps to conserve the environment. That said, this is an area that many people lack comprehensive and accurate information about and would benefit from learning the ins and outs of.

What Electronics Can You Recycle?

Not all electronics can be recycled, but the electronic recycling process separates ferrous and non-ferrous metals, as well as plastic components. The plastic casing on a phone, for example, cannot be recycled. However, the highly expensive metal components used for a computer or phone switchboard can most likely be recycled. 

Almost all electronics can be at least somewhat salvaged, except for products that contain mercury or lead. Mercury and lead are not commonly found in modern electronics and should only be a concern if you own a TV from 1991 or earlier, or LCD TVs or monitors. 

Benefits Of Recycling Electronics

Recycling is a crucial part of conserving the environment today and ensuring that the process of getting rid of material goods is safe and takes into consideration broader consequences. While recycling efforts usually focus on single-use plastics and trash, electronics are equally as harmful when they end up in landfills. 

Recycling electronics also benefits the economy by decreasing electronic component production. Large companies like Apple have their own recycling centers where components can be reused for future phones, tablets, and computers. So, this benefits the companies that make the products in the first place by extending the lifespans of the parts and eliminating, or minimizing, production costs.

China currently controls almost all means of production for rare earth metals used in electronic products. By taking interest in the e-waste recycling business, this allows US-based companies to obtain reusable metals at a lower price and decreases reliance on China to produce all electronic goods.

Mining and refining rare earth metals is also a costly and dangerous process. Businesses are incentivized to offer free electronics recycling to the public to cut costs and reduce risks, while increasing their brand image. Some materials, such as batteries, are illegal to dispose of, and by offering convenient recycling methods, businesses can mitigate legal risks of dumping harmful products and help the environment in the process. 

There are even some places where you can get paid for recycling electronics. Services such as GreenBuyBack, ecoATM, GizMojo, and more give people a cash incentive to recycle old devices. Recycling electronics can be profitable, depending on the model of your device. 

Companies That Recycle

If you have never recycled electronics before, you may not know where to begin. A simple search of where to recycle electronics near you will tell you about stores that recycle electronics. 

Apple is one place where you can turn in your old phone for a new one, allowing the company to reuse components that are salvageable. 

Best Buy offers free electronics recycling for most products nationwide. They are the nation’s largest recycler of e-waste, recycling over 2 billion tons in electronics! They accept up to three products daily and offer coupons on future purchases for bringing in old electronics.

UBreakiFix is a tech repair company that accepts old cell phones, laptops, printers, chargers, and more.  The company has partnered with Samsung to offer tech recycling nationwide. 

Staples accepts electronics for free recycling every day in all but a few locations nationwide. They limit up to seven products per day and allow recycling for personal or business use.

Goodwill is partnered with Dell through the Dell Reconnect Program. Drop your computer off at any Goodwill location—it does not have to be Dell Brand to be recycled.

Dell, Amazon, T-Mobile, Vizio and many other companies offer free electronics recycling. Not all companies practice ethical electronics recycling, however. Some of them practice illegal e-waste dumping in developing countries. Before you decide where to drop off your old electronics, do some research on which companies are “R2” certified. This certification is awarded by a third-party auditor that verifies each company’s recycling process. 

What Companies Do With Recycled Electronics

Before recycling your electronic devices, you should back up your data, disconnect storage, disconnect from online accounts, and wipe all data. Companies that recycle your phone, laptop, tablet, TV, etc. will not save your data, so anything that is not backed up will be lost. This also poses a potential threat to personal security, as electronic devices often contain an abundance of personal information.

After collecting your electronic devices, companies must store them properly. This may sound easy, but it is not as straightforward as it seems. Any product with CRTs (Cathode Ray Tubes) is highly contaminated by lead and cannot be collected. Recycling companies store glass indefinitely, while rare metals are sorted through and reused. 

Batteries and bulbs are manually separated from the rest of the device as materials are sorted. Some items are then manually sorted for valuable materials, further separating the products. From there, technology is shredded into small pieces. This is an essential part of the recycling process before the electronic devices are sent to mechanical separation. Mechanical separation consists of water and magnetic separation. 

After mechanical separation, devices are ready for sale and reuse. Plastic materials may be sent through another recycling stream, while some products are assembled onsite. 

This allows companies such as Dell, HP, T-Mobile, and many more to cut out the lengthy production process and offer refurbished devices at lower prices.