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How Do We Recycle Massive Amounts of E-Waste?

As technology grows at an ever more rapid pace, discarded electronics have become a serious problem. Here’s why e-waste is an issue, and how you can help.

The Problem with E-Waste
The first problem with e-waste is that there’s a lot of it. Tens of millions of tons of electronic waste are produced every single year, and that number continues to grow. Why is it such a big deal? E-waste often contains toxic materials such as mercury, cadmium, lead, and chromium. These substances can harm ecosystems, pollute water supplies, and create serious health and and environmental hazards.

Read More: Could 3-D Printing Be Threatening Our Planet?

What Things Are Considered E-Waste?

  • DVDs and DVD players
  • Mobile Phones
  • Laptops, Tablets, and Home Computers
  • Batteries
  • Hard Disks
  • Monitors
  • Circuit Boards
  • Cables and Wires
  • Keyboards, Mice, and other Peripherals
  • Digital Cameras
  • Hard Drives
  • GPS Units
  • Video Game Systems
  • Printers and Scanners
  • Microwaves
  • iPods and MP3 Players
  • Modems and Routers

Other items like HVAC equipment and home appliances are sometimes considered e-waste too, so check with your local recycling facility.

How is E-Waste Recycled?
First, the items arrive at a recycling facility, where they are sorted. They are dismantled and broken down into their core components, which are divided up into categories based on what type of item they are and whether they can be re-purposed. Next, finer pieces and particles go through a shaking process using a conveyor belt to further separate them and reduce their size. After the remaining materials are reduced to even smaller particles, any dust is extracted and safely discarded. A magnet is then used to separate the metallic items out; copper, aluminum, and brass can be sold as raw materials or reused for manufacturing new products. After this, the plastic is separated from glass using water, and any re-usable or sellable materials are set aside while the remaining particles are disposed of.

How You Can Help
First, always recycle your e-waste. Never toss an old phone or computer monitor in the trash. Find your closest recycling plant and find out what kind of items they accept. Talk to your mobile service carrier. Many cell phone companies have e-waste recycling and device buyback programs. You can also help by taking take good care of your electronics so they don’t break down as quickly. Install system updates when they come out and use apps like PSafe Total to keep your device running smoothly and securely.