When we consider waste, the most potent image that comes to mind is of landfills topped with everything from plastic lawn chairs to laundry detergent bottles. But, another and more specific rubbish pile that’s been accumulating due to the technology booms is e-scrap, or discarded electronic and electrical devices.
What is interesting about e-scrap is that much of it contains recoverable secondary scrap metals like copper and steel. Items under the umbrella include everything from discarded computers, electronic devices for entertainment and mobile phones to refrigerators and office electronic equipment. Of those discarded electronics, some can be refurbished, resold or reused, while others can be recycled and some must be disposed.
One progressive movement in e-scrap recycling is a facility in the U.K. that’s currently in development- an integrated plasma facility that recycles the country’s obsolete electronics and enables precious metal recovery. Rather than exporting electronic scraps to refineries, the plant will allow almost all of the precious metals in electronic scrap waste to be recovered domestically using plasma smelting technology. One partner in the project, called Tetronics, has already used the process to extract precious metals from catalytic converters and industrial catalysts.
This e-scrap recycling business and facility model could become a global example of how to recover materials successfully without shipping items out of country yet maximizing cost-effectiveness and receiving high value, as those precious metals can be resold.
When you’re ready to throw out your electronics do a local online search in your area to see where the closest facilities are located. Call or email to inquire as to whether they are the best facility for the item that you’re turning over.
Keep in mind, some services may be offered free of charge while others have a price tag. Talk those details over with the e-scrap facility or collector. And, make sure to speak with your tax accountant about what donations or recycling payments are tax deductible. One other note – before you toss out the family’s old mobile phone or desktop, remember to clear your data!
Have you ever attempted to “clear the cookies” from your laptop? We recently made the attempt and realized that while the URL history and password memory for online logins can be wiped clean, there is a column in the system preferences where login names and passwords are stored directly on the laptop. It’s like a secret storage compartment that could be helpful—or risky.
When someone considers agencies that retain individual personal information—like health data, finances, or taxes—the information could hold security risks if it is not deleted properly or completely. According to a study from Blancco Technology Group and Kroll Ontrack, 57 percent of used mobile devices and 75 percent of used drives—including hard disc drives and solid state drives—purchased from Amazon, eBay and Gazelle contain residual data (Recycling Today).
One of the largest components of recycling electronics sans personal information is the need to educate users to know that when information is deleted, or if someone logs out of an account on the device, the information may still be stored locally. For example, if you delete files on your desktop or even in your email inbox, those items sit in the trash bin until they are deleted a second time.
At this point in e-scrap development, it may take more individual effort to call an e-scrap collector to pick up the old electronics or to personally visit a drop-off facility—but just like the consortium in the U.K., that initial investment will make a large difference for the future.