As many people have found themselves at home for long stretches of time during the coronavirus pandemic, their thoughts often turn to cleaning and reorganizing their living spaces. Many homeowners hang onto old furniture, clothing, and electronics for long periods. When going through these old belongings, people are not sure what to do with them.
While clothing and furniture can be donated, many people are confused about what to do with old or out-of-date electronics. Some electronic equipment contains heavy metals and other contaminants that can escape the environment if improperly disposed of. Albert Boufarah from SAMR Inc., an electronics recycling firm, explains why electronics recycling is so important for the planet’s health.
E-Waste Recycling Rates
E-waste is not recycled most of the time correctly. According to the EPA, only one-third of the e-waste produced in the United States is recycled. While these rates are on the increase, the massive environmental problem needs to be addressed.
In the United States, only 10 percent of cell phones are recycled. This is a telling statistic because most Americans purchase a new phone every 12 to 18 months. This environment where working electronics are discarded in favor of new ones produces a great deal of electronic waste.
Improper Disposal of Electronic Waste Hurts the Environment
Many people are not aware that electronic equipment should not be disposed of with regular household trash. Computers and other electronic devices contain toxic substances like chromium, barium, nickel, zinc, lead, and flame-retardant chemicals. If these substances are released into the environment, they can damage the kidneys, blood, and nervous system. These toxins are released when the e-waste is warmed up, as commonly happens in a landfill or incinerator.
E-waste can also contaminate groundwater. This affects both sea animals and land animals and the people living in areas where electronic waste dumps are located.
The Process of E-Waste Recycling
Formal e-waste recycling involves taking the electronics apart, categorizing and separating their components, and cleaning everything. Mechanical shredders then break down the materials for further sorting. This step in the process requires strict controls to protect the recyclers’ health and safety since many of the chemicals and metals released are toxic.
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous e-waste “recyclers” fail to recycle their materials formally. These companies instead ship the materials overseas to countries where there are fewer restrictions and environmental controls. Local crews recycle what they can and remove valuable materials like gold, but they put themselves in significant danger by recycling materials without proper safety gear.
Many countries in Asia have stopped accepting shipments of e-waste for this reason. Companies like SAMR Inc. are even more critical to the health of the world’s environment because they recycle waste properly.
Another aspect of e-waste recycling that many people fail to consider is data security. Many people throw computers and cell phones away without adequately protecting their data. With access to their data, criminals can exploit their connections and their privacy and financial information.
Companies like SAMR Inc. are equipped to ensure that discarded electronics have all of their data properly removed before recycling. Most people believe that if they delete the information on their hard drives, they will be cleaning their data safely, but hackers can often take steps to retrieve data from these electronics.
Solutions to the E-Waste Problem
Polluting e-waste is a danger to the environment and human health. The shipment of these materials abroad is unfair to the countries receiving them and can cause problems.
The first solution to the e-waste problem lies in reducing the frequency with which you buy electronic equipment like cell phones, computers, and TVs. Reducing the number of items going into the waste stream is one of the most important ways to alleviate the problem.
When it is possible to do so, consider repairing an older model rather than buying new. Often people will discard a cell phone when it needs a new battery rather than looking into getting it replaced. The cell phone manufacturers encourage consumers to think of these products as disposable to bring them the next new thing.
When you have exhausted all of the ways to repair and refresh your old electronics, they will need to go to a reputable recycling company. When these products are recycled properly, they can take many hazardous substances out of the waste stream. Valuable metals like gold can also be recovered from electronics.
Cleaning Up Your Home
The coronavirus pandemic’s current state means that many people are at home and looking for ways to improve their living space. If you do have electronics that need to be disposed of, contact a quality recycling firm. You can be reassured that your old equipment will not release toxins into the atmosphere.
Albert Boufarah believes that e-waste recycling is one of the keys to environmental safety in these challenging times. Working with a reputable recycling firm means that people will be able to clear out their closets and basements while feeling good about their impact on the environment.