The thriving consumer electronics industry is good news for OEMs and consumers alike. At the same time, e-waste continues to be a challenging problem.
The average laptop or notebook computer, cellular phone, or digital camera is made up of a huge variety of different elements: glass, metals, and plastics. Recyclers reclaim these elements for further use through a process that includes shredding, sorting, and manual inspection.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that only about one quarter of all electronics were being recycled, according to its most recent 2009 figures. Other sources put that figure even lower, at about 12.5%. Clearly, there's a gap to be closed on the recycling front.
This infographic from Sims Recycling Solutions traces how electronics goods are recycled, from the moment a device leaves the hands of its owner to when various elements are reclaimed and reused.
Meanwhile, scientists are considering how to innovate electronics to make them more earth friendly. According to the June 2014 issue of Popular Science magazine:
John Rogers, a materials scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has created ribbons of silicon so thin — just 35 nanometers thick — that they can dissolve in 10 days in less than a millimeter of water. By combining these strips with magnesium and silk, he's created circuits that safely degrade inside the human body. Such circuits could lead to a new era of smart biomedical devices, but, Rogers says, they're also a first step in reducing e-waste.
What responsibility does the electronics industry have in finding better ways or recycling and new types of components? What answers do you see on the horizon for the problem of e-waste recycling? Let's get talking in the comments section.
— Hailey Lynne McKeefry, Editor in Chief, EBN