Let’s play a game. Look around your room and count the number of electronic devices in there. I bet the number will shock you and this is only one room. Just imagine how many more devices you’re going to find if you do the same exercise for the entire house.
It’s no secret that the use of electronic devices has gone through the roof in the last few years. There are snazzy smart phones, sleek tablets, state-of-the-art laptops, stylish LED and plasma screen televisions, new generation gaming consoles and what not vying for your attention every time you set your foot inside a consumer electronics showroom.
According to this Gallup poll, three in 10 Americans own an array of consumer electronics that include a smart phone, a home wireless internet device, a DVD or Blu-Ray player, a laptop, a tablet, and many more.
But this post is not about our use of consumer electronics. It’s more about what happens once they stop being useful for us. How do we make sure that these consumer electronics are recycled in a safe and responsible manner?
Why do we need to recycle electronics?
The first reason that comes to mind when you ask why we need to recycle electronics or e-waste is that it’s a law in 25 states including California, Washington, New Jersey, New York, Maine, Virginia, Texas and many others.
Second, consumer electronics are best kept away from landfills and should ideally not be mixed with the general municipal waste stream. There are environmental repercussions of improper e-waste management, especially at their end-of-life stage. These devices are usually made up of a wide variety of materials such as nickel, cadmium, lead, mercury, etc. that can be hazardous for both the environment as well as the human population if not disposed properly.
Third, a great deal of this so called “waste” is not waste in reality. Sometimes a ready-to-be-disposed electronic equipment as a whole or its parts can be refurbished and sold for reuse.
And finally, most electronic devices are a goldmine of valuable resources including precious metals like copper and engineered plastics. If manufactured from scratch, these materials require a considerable amount of energy. By recycling, we can recover these valuable materials, which will benefit us in various ways such as:
- Conserving energy
- Saving precious resources
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
The good news is that more and more consumers are becoming aware of the benefits of e-waste recycling. According to a Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) study, nine in 10 consumers believe it’s important to recycle their consumer electronics and what’s more heartening is the fact that 63% of them know where to recycle their e-waste.
E-waste recycler – must ask questions
Now that you know that e-waste recycling is both mandatory under law depending on where you live and desirable from an environmental point of view, the key is to find a responsible e-waste recycler who can make sure that the waste is recycled in accordance with the state, federal, and international regulations.
How can you find such a recycler in your area? Simple, judge them on these four yardsticks and you’ll know if they’re the right people for the job.
- Certification: Look for e-waste recyclers that have achieved one of these three certifications – R2, e-Stewards, or NAID. A certification means that your recycler has been endorsed by a third-party as conforming to recycling industry best practices that protect the environment as well as ensure worker health and safety.
- Visit the facility: You must visit the recycling facility where your e-waste is to be recycled to ensure that all the safety measures are in place and also get a sense of the facility’s size, the quality of its equipment and how it’s used, procedures it follows to manage e-waste, and whether or not its employees have been screened and tested for drug use.
- Data security: It’s possible that the e-waste you’re looking to get recycled still contains sensitive and important data. To protect yourself from the possibility of data breach, you must find an e-waste recycler that takes data security very seriously. Understand the data destruction and sanitization methods employed by the recycler before you hand over your e-waste to them.
- Protection from risks: Look for a recycler that has liability as well as pollution and cyber security insurance cover. Only an insured recycler can protect you from financial risks associated with electronics recycling.
These parameters have been put together by Sims Metal Management in one of the issues of their e-solution newsletter. With centers spread from Long Beach in LA to Camden in NJ, Sims Metal Management is one of the leading e-waste recyclers in the country.
Next time you have some electronics that you no longer use, you know where to take them. Until then, enjoy these little wonders of technology in all their glory!