Electronic equipment can represent a serious threat to the environment, and the population, if disposed of incorrectly.
E-waste is the fastest growing segment of waste in the industrialized world. It annually demands as much transportation as a line up of delivery trucks halfway around the planet.
Recycling your devices helps you keep your house and enterprise free from e-waste clutter, contributing to a cleaner, healthier, and safer environment. Disposing of e-waste correctly is of paramount importance today. Both as conscious individuals, and as a part of an enterprise, we need to be responsible for the damage our discarded devices are causing to the environment. Responsible e-waste recycling means being careful about where we take our e-waste, understanding who is going to be dealing with it, and making sure we find a reliable channel to the end-of-life (EOL) products.
Standards and certification
We may think that we decide to support recycling, and everything goes right. Yet, not every electronics recycler follows environmentally sound practices. For this reason, legislation has been established to differentiate the responsible electronics recyclers and refurbishers from those who are doing illegal recycling that contaminates the planet, and puts human lives at risk.
Recyclers and refurbishers can become certified. An independent third party audits and certifies that they possess available standards on responsible recycling practices. This is highly recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which also encourages all consumers to choose only certified recyclers. The EPA provides with all the needed information on Certification Programs for Electronics Recyclers.
Where has all the e-waste gone?
If we don't take all the necessary precautions to assure the correct disposal of e-waste, things could get really ugly. To have a clear understanding of the risks that e-waste represent, I insist that you invest 13 minutes of your time watching this investigative journalism documentary made by 60 Minutes. The video shows what happens when recycling is not properly done, and when authorities are involved in masking the truth. Not only the planet and the environment are at risk, but also the health and life of human beings exposed to the toxics. This is what happens when US e-waste illegally travels to landfills in China, where it is illegally dismantled.
How much can be saved
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states, "Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in a year."
This is in the US alone. Imagine how much could be saved worldwide. The only requisite is that it has to be done by ethical recyclers.
"For every million cellphones we recycle, we can recover 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium."
Here it is when responsible recycling takes a special role to avoid that the phones will fall into the wrong hands, and become victims to those who will exploit human beings for pennies in exchange of doing the dirty job, as we have sadly seen in the documentary above.
EBN's recycling challenge
There is a big difference between the amount of unused electronics devices, and the number that are actually recycled. According to Nokia's latest study on the topic, only 9 percent of people recycle their old phones. In fact, about 44 percent of unused mobile devices are sitting forgotten only gaining dust in the bottom drawer, or in an equally forgotten box in the attic; sadly, that's how I have mine. I am sure I am not alone here. This could change if we all at EBN take action recycling at least one unused device this summer. What do you say, are you up to the challenge?
E-Waste recycling is a challenge due to its inhomogeneous nature. There are a diversity of particle size distribution, shapes and materials with an enlarged pressure for recovery. The CP Group has risen to the occasion, leading the industry with advanced technology and features to overcome challenges faced.
As Susan said what most people do with their phone is to let it stay in the bottom drawer, due to the accelerated component obsolescence and upgrading of electronic products, we are also ramping up leaving more phones in drawers. This case is especially serious and common in young people.
Most consumers are not aware that they ought rececle their old phones while some do not see it as their problem either.
What is in there for consumers when I buy the phone and also make sure it get recycled when its old.If something tangible is not attached to it to attract consumers, the manufacturers may find this a little to do.
NGOs quite often feel the financial pressure. Also attracting good manpower to get the things done is another issue. Its time Recycling industry gets the position it deserves. It will also be helpful if every electronics manufacturer also makes a recycling unit so consumer knows where to drop the Ewaste and also its guranteed that its getting recycled with safe process.
elctrnx_lyf: I strongly feel its individual's responsibility to make sure all the different categories of waste goes to appropriate recyclers. Especially in countries like India where you cannot expect Government and legislation to do the things. If everyhouselhold makes sure their organic waste gets composted or turned into biogas, Ewaste goes to right ewaste recyclers things will change. Its our attitude that we pay taxes so let municipal government take care of. But the amount of population India has and kind of governance we have its important for people to take care of these social issues.
I agree on every points that Susan mentioned. My question is how much do the company spend for recycling and segregation of these wastes. We know there is fortune in every waste but does that compensate to the cost invested on recycling?
I'm sure some of companies already look into this.
Hospice: There are some very innovative companies out there that are recycling the metals from phones. Yes, it takes investment, but once the systems are in place, the rewards are considerable. There are a LOT of phones to recycle out there...not to mention laptops and other devices containing precious metals.
Ms Fourtane - you were hitting all the right points with standards and certification and then (unfortunately) your research stopped. The 60 Minutes piece is nearly 4 years old and was a wake-up call to the industry and electronic product manufacturers. A lot has changed since then and I would have been interested in learning about the effectiveness of regulations and voluntary participation by recycling processors in the certification programs. Also check out the February 2013 study conducted by the U.S. ITC on the issue of Used Electronic Product exports.
The NGO's are focusing on the toxic effects of recycling, often with a focus on melting down or using acid baths for the products to extract base metals. This is certainly important. A different issue, plausibly even more important to the industry, is the "recycling" of compnents from the electronic devices to make counterfeit components for sale on the open market. The value of the countereits outweighs that of the reclaimed metals. This drives our industry to address yet a different, and even more complex problem.
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EBN Dialogue enables you to participate in live chats with notable leaders and luminaries. Open to the entire EBN community of electronics supply chain experts, these conversations see ideas shared, comments made, and questions asked and answered in real time. Listed below are upcoming and archived chats. Stay tuned and join in!