Infographic: Looking at the End of Life of Electronics

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 Circle me on Google+ Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn page Friend me on Facebook

4 comments on “Infographic: Looking at the End of Life of Electronics

  1. Eldredge
    June 20, 2014

    Fortunately, the IRS is leading by example when it comes to recyclign disk drives! Perhaps other federal agencies will follow suit.

  2. SP
    June 21, 2014

    E-waste is the fastest growing category of waste that needs immideate attention. And ewaste is growing in the Asian countries too looking at the population and how almost every individual is getting dependant on these gadgets. There is absolutely no clear mecahnism how one can dispose off the e waste. And cell phones and power cords are frequently generated ewastes. In my home we keep all the dry waste separately like paper, plastic and ewaste and we have to drive ourselves to hand it over to the recyclers. I think each electronic seller must have mechanism to take back the ewaste and they must have a tie up with the recyclers. The Governments and citizens and private players have to take equal ownership.

  3. Houngbo_Hospice
    June 23, 2014

    @Eldredge–The funny thing is that not everybody is happy about the IRS recycling disk drives. When the Senate Finance Committee has been informed that the IRS recycled the hard drive of Lois Lerner, they complained that it will deprive investigators of the ability to forensically retrieve emails of Lois Lerner and six other employees who were being investigated regarding the targeting of conservative groups and donors.

  4. ahdand
    June 24, 2014

    @Hospice: Well I would say that you cannot adjust laws and procedures of the company according to user requirements. If we try to do that there will be no control at all. Best option would be to change and ask the users to follow it

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