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Friday, April 19, 2013

E-Waste Recycling 101

By Melissa Hincha-Ownby


You may already have a handle on basic household recycling, but what do you do about old electronics? Most electronic items can’t be recycled alongside other household goods and need to be processed separately. This primer will help bring you up-to-date on electronics waste (e-waste) recycling.

e-wasteWhat is e-waste?

E-waste is simply electronics waste – electronic items that cannot be reused or refurbished. These items need to be processed by a reputable and preferably certified recycling organization.

What types of items qualify as e-waste?

Basically anything that either has an electrical plug or operates via batteries can be considered e-waste. From laptops and computer monitors, to stereos and mobile phones.

What does an e-waste recycler do with the products? In 2010, I had the opportunity to tour a local, certified electronics waste recycling facility.  As I watched the employees separate the items, I learned that some products can be broken down and recycled while others have to be sent to a certified hazardous material handler. For example, some older computer monitors have lead in the screen and must be processed according to hazardous material handling procedures.

What is urban mining?

Urban mining is a phrase associated with e-waste. Many of today’s high tech products use rare earth minerals that are in high demand. These minerals can often be harvested from recycled electronics, reducing the need to mine new raw materials.

How do I find an e-waste recycler?

There are many ways to find a reputable e-waste recycling organization. The easiest way is to contact your local waste management firm or city waste disposal department and ask. Some municipalities host e-waste collection events while others will have a list of third-party e-waste recyclers.

What do you do with your electronics waste?

Photo courtesy of Melissa Hincha-Ownby.

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