Recycling Electronic Waste
Old computers, phones, home appliances, and electronic office equipment can become obsolete very quickly. The recycling and re-distribution of these and other electronic devices is known as E-Cycling.
A Modern Problem
A front page New York Times article in 1993 heralded the dawn of a problem the human race had never before faced — what to do with the ever-growing mountain of unused, broken, and outdated electronics. The United States Environmental Protection Agency coined the term “e-waste” to describe this type of trash, and initiated programs to recycle electronics and the metals and plastics which comprise them. Governments around the world have followed suit. In 2003, the European Union adopted the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive, a comprehensive e-waste management system.
How Electronics are Recycled
Electronics manufacturers and retailers have joined government agencies in sponsoring “take-back” events, wherein consumers can turn in unwanted or broken electronics for safe disposal. In many cases, these items can be repaired and redistributed.
Common build components like tin, iron, aluminum, and silicon can be recycled into new electronic products. This practice can offset the production costs and pollution associated with acquiring new supplies of these metals from the Earth. In this way, e-cycling can relieve the countless environmental repercussions that such mining operations can have. If unusable, devices are often stripped and sold as valuable scrap metal.
How to Recycle Personal Electronics
In addition to turning in old electronics at local retailers, consumers can find information on e-cycling by calling local solid waste management and public works departments. Additionally, the EPA offers a listing of regional e-cycling programs.