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Electrical Recycling: What Happens to that Ancient Atari?

atari game logo Electronic waste, or e-waste, only accounts for about 2 percent of the total waste found in landfills. However, while that might not seem like a lot, consider the fact that e-waste accounts for some 70 percent of the total toxic waste in the U.S. We don’t need to tell you how significant that is.

 

What’s more is that e-waste numbers are fast growing – current estimates state that only about 12.5 percent of used electronics are recycled. And that’s a shame, as most e-waste is reusable or can be recycled or re manufactured to make new electronics parts. More and more municipalities are hosting e-waste recycling days or incorporating electronics into their overall recycling plan – and for good reason.

Here’s a look at some e-waste facts:

  • Over 500 pounds of fuel, about 50 pounds of chemicals and some 1.5 tons of water are required to manufacture one computer and one monitor.
  • It’s estimated that over $60 million worth of gold and silver, which are commonly found in cell phones and electronics, are wasted in landfills every year.
  • LCD products, plasma products and any electronics containing cathode ray tubes are particularly hazardous to the environment when improperly disposed of.

 

So with that in mind, just what happens to the electronics that you recycle? Here’s a look at just where that old Atari – or anything else you’re dropping off at the center – goes when you take it for recycling:

 

  • First, it’s tested to see if it was discarded because it was unwanted or if it was discarded because it was broken. If it still works, the product can be repurposed. In fact, it’s estimated that as many as 30 percent of all electronics items collected can be repurposed in some way.
  • If the product is indeed broken and cannot be repurposed, then an analysis is conducted to see what parts from the product can be salvaged. For instance, with computers, there’s a high demand for laptop parts, like LCDs.
  • Once salvageable parts are sorted and removed from the product itself, then further product breakdown takes place. For instance, steel, aluminum, copper and other metals and materials can be stripped and recycled to make new electronics or new products. Plastic is another hot material, as it can be melted and repurposed to create new electronics shells and casings.
  • So now what happens to the rest of the product? If the product is something sensitive – like a hard drive – then it’s taken through a shredder to destroy it. After it comes out of the shredder, further material separation occurs.
  • At the end of the process, your old electronics product is no more, but future electronics parts are in the process of being created with its left-behinds. And recycling these critical components to create new ones is much cheaper and more eco-friendly than starting completely over. It’s a big part of the reason why the e-recycling market is responsible for some $5 billion in the U.S. economy, and is likely only to increase as further e-waste awareness is raised.

 

For more information on e-waste recycling and sorting systems to help make the job easier, contact General Kinematics today.

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