Every bit of E-Waste that is diverted from a landfill or incinerator is in a small way making the world a better place. When end of life electronics are handled, sorted and recycled properly, that E-Waste has actually turned into a valuable source of secondary raw materials that won’t need to be stripped from our limited natural resources.
It takes 539 lbs of fossil fuel, 48 lbs of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water to manufacture one computer and monitor. Just by putting one working used computer and monitor back into the workforce saves all of those precious natural resources. Fortunately there are a large number of environmentally friendly recycling companies like All Goods Electronics that are doing just that.
“One metric ton (t) of electronic scrap from personal computers (PC’s) contains more gold than that recovered from 17 t of gold ore. In 1998, the amount of gold recovered from electronic scrap in the United States was equivalent to that recovered from more than 2 million metric tons (Mt) of gold ore and waste.
The EPA’s most recent e-waste report shows that in 2012 we trashed or recycled 142,000 computers and over 416,000 mobile devices every single day!! That year we generated over 3.4 million tons of e-waste in the U.S. alone. According to the E.P.A. only 1 million tons or 29.2 % of that amount was recycled. This is up from 25% in 2011 so the good news is that a higher percentage of E-Waste is being diverted from our landfills. Unfortunately year after year consumers across the United States consume more and more electronics, which in turn means that millions of tons of E-Waste will continue to be improperly discarded in our landfills or incinerators.
Cell Phone recycling example:
If we recycled 100 million cell phones, (for example) 3.4 metric tons of gold could be recovered – allowing that amount of gold to enter back into production without being mined. Another result is that substantially less fuel would be used, dramatically reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases caused by manufacturing new products. Because the mining and processing steps were avoided, 5.5 million tons of loose soil, sand and rock would not have to be disturbed.
Recycling your cell phone helps protect the environment in a number of ways. Cell phones contain a number of different metals – gold, silver, platinum, palladium, rhodium, copper, tin, lead, brass and zinc – that can be extracted and recovered in the recycling process. For every 1 million cell phones that are recycled, 35,274 lbs of copper, 772 lbs of silver, 75 lbs of gold, and 33 lbs of palladium can be recovered.
Recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 U.S. homes in a year. The recovered metals can be used by a number of different industries such as jewelry, plating, electronics, plumbing, automotive, and art foundries. Products that can be manufactured from the recovered materials include automotive catalytic converters, plumbing faucets and piping, and gold or silver jewelry. The plastic can also be recycled into new products as garden furniture, license plate frames, non-food containers and replacement automotive parts.
Recovering these materials by recycling avoids the need to mine and process new materials, which in turn, conserves our natural resources, and avoids air and water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
This is from the United States EPA, (Environmental Protection Agency):
Reusing and recycling electronic waste helps use materials wisely, saves energy, and
keeps useable and valuable material out of landfills and incinerators. Electronic products
are made from valuable resources, such as precious and other metals, plastics, and glass,
all of which require energy to mine and manufacture them. Reusing and recycling the
these materials from end-of-life electronics conserves our natural resources and avoids air
and water pollution, as well as greenhouse gas emissions that are caused by manufacturing new products.
A large percentage of what is labeled, “e-waste” is actually not waste at all, but rather complete, working electronic equipment that is readily marketable for reuse. A lot of responsible electronics recyclers will put working items back into service in the consumer marketplace. If there is no feasible application for reuse only then should it be recycled for materials recovery. Fortunately this practice is saving thousands of items from being thrown in the landfill or prematurely recycled.