Everything You Need To Know About Electronic Waste Recycling

18th Nov 2021

Electronics aren’t made to last a lifetime. They often break down and, even if they don’t, we’re all guilty of upgrading unnecessarily from time to time. So what happens to the electronics we’ve deemed obsolete? Are they doomed to spend eternity in the gadget graveyard? Not necessarily.

Maybe you’re already recycling your plastic bottles and tin cans. Your business might have an industrial cardboard shredder for recycling that material too. But are you doing your part when it comes to electronic waste? Could you implement a recycling program in your business?

If the concept is new to you, don’t worry! Here, you’ll find all the information you need to start disposing of electronic items responsibly.

Why Should You Recycle Electronics?

It’s important to get rid of electronics in the right way since they often contain dangerous chemicals. Landfill is no place for our abandoned gadgets!

The great news is that through electronic waste recycling, material from electronic products can be recovered and reused, rescuing us from the release of toxic substances.

Think about all the electronic products you use in a day. Then think about how many of these products you buy in a year. As we increasingly invest in these items, we generate more and more electronic waste.

Given the accelerating climate crisis, we all should be more thoughtful and diligent about our carbon footprint. That’s why you should embrace this kind of recycling if you haven’t already.

What can be recycled?

Many different useful materials can be extracted from electronic waste and used again. For example, our gadgets and appliances often contain plastic. Just like we recycle plastic bottles, we can recycle the plastic from an old mobile phone.

Metal can also be recycled from electronic waste. It can be used to manufacture new products. Specialist recycling companies have the ability to recover tin, gold, copper, silver, and other metals from circuit boards. Aluminium ingots can also be found in hard disks.

If you have gadgets that use batteries, the steel, nickel, and cobalt found within them can be used to make new batteries. They can also be used to make stainless steel.

Glass is another material commonly found amongst our electronic waste. For example, if you get rid of an old computer or a television, their screens are typically made of glass.

What makes this more difficult is that the cathode ray tubes contain hazardous substances, so this process should be undertaken very carefully. Professionals know how to do this correctly, removing the cathode ray tube and shredding it first.

Speaking of danger, many electronic devices contain mercury. If you recycle your electronic waste, your devices will be sent to facilities where the mercury inside can be safely extracted.

Do you still have a printer in your home? Have you ever wondered what happens to all the ink cartridges you discard? They can be recycled and transformed into other plastic and metal products!

The 7 steps of electronic waste recycling:

  1. The waste is collected (using collection bins, for example) then transported to recycling facilities for processing.
     
  2. The waste is shredded, which means it is broken into smaller pieces. The dismantling involves separating and sorting items into different material groups.
     
  3. Dust is extracted from the waste, avoiding environmental degradation.
     
  4. A magnet is used to separate metals such as steel and iron from other kinds of waste, like plastic.
     
  5. Water separation technology is used to separate glass and plastic. Any leads that have glass are then sent to smelters, so it can be used to produce items like batteries.
     
  6. Any metals that are leftover need to be extracted at this stage, leaving the waste stream as pure as possible.
     
  7. The final recycled materials are prepared to be resold. They are bought as raw materials to be used in the manufacturing of new electronics.

How can I start recycling electronic waste?

Many sites accept e-waste, batteries, and packaging from households at no cost. A simple google search for the term “recycling locator services” can help you identify the most convenient site near you.

You’ve probably seen battery collection bins around. You can find them in public places such as shops and schools as well as in specific offices. Recycling your used batteries may be a good place to start!

Recycling electronic waste is becoming an urgent priority for the UK government. Soon, kerbside collection services may be introduced nationwide to help make recycling electronic products much easier.

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