Americans already know how to recycle paper, plastics, and metals. But what about electronics? Compared to other recyclable materials, electronics haven’t existed for very long, and there’s not a lot of educational material to explain how to dispose of them.
This lack of information has become costly, especially since electronics evolve so much faster than paper or plastic. The result is called “e-waste.” These broken or outdated electronics pile up in landfills, and because America produces so much e-waste (3.09 million tons in 2015 alone), it’s crucial for this culture to learn how to recycle electronics.
A Global Health Issue
Once electronics enter a landfill, they break down and releasing chemicals that harm the environment and any humans that may handle them. Fairly recently, the United States and other developed nations have started sending their e-waste to developing countries. Not only do most of these countries lack the resources to handle e-waste, but they also lack the means to reject the shipments. As a result, workers in developing nations are forced to deal with discarded electronics, often using dangerous practices like acid baths to strip the material. Many of these workers have faced cancer, brain damage, and other serious health problems because e-waste exposed them to mercury, arsenic, and other toxins. In other words, the United States has contributed to a global health crisis.
Benefits of Recycling
By improving its e-waste approach, the US can put a stop to a lot of this health and environmental nightmare. Furthermore, electronic recycling comes with a host of other benefits. The Environmental Protection Agency, as cited earlier has listed them in an article. These benefits include the following:
- Bringing jobs to the US – When e-waste goes to recycling centers instead of landfills, it stays in America instead of going to developing nations. American workers can then disassemble and recycle the materials in a safe way.
- Pollution reduction – Electronics create pollution. Recycling old electronics instead of building new ones can reduce that pollution. It also saves some of the earth’s limited resources.
- Granting Access – When people recycle cell phones and other electronics, people with lower incomes can buy used technology at lower costs. They can own products that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to access.
How to Recycle Electronics
So how can you help? Start with your own electronics. For example, do you have an old computer in your basement? If you do, you’re far from the only one. Thankfully, you have a couple of options. Before you start, make sure that you wipe any identifying information from the computer. If the place where you bought the computer has a buyback program, you can bring it back to the store in exchange for cash. Otherwise, you can bring it to an electronic recycling center. These places are filled with people who know exactly how to recycle electronics in a safe and healthy way. Many of them also offer cash in exchange for electronics.
Now that you understand how and why e-waste has become a problem, will you become part of the solution?