Over 450 million used household electronics & old computers in the United States alone can be recycled. In 2009, according to Albert Boufarah, CEO of electronics & laptop recycling company SAMR Inc., only 29% of these devices were recycled. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “computers and related equipment account for more than 2% of all waste,” a percentage that will continue to rise as technology advances and the U.S. population grows. This means that about 2,000 tons of electronic waste is disposed of annually (according to the EPA). Trends are showing that number moving upwards rapidly as we continue to upgrade our technology.
Electronic waste is known to contain a variety of different metals such as cobalt, copper, gold, palladium, silver, and platinum. These materials are worth recycling because they are relatively environmentally friendly and can be reused for years due to their durability – they can be reused to manufacture the next generation of computers & smartphones.
What is e-waste?
Electronic waste (e-waste) is a term used to describe obsolete electric & battery powered items. According to Albert Boufarah, CEO of computer recycling firm SAMR Inc., it comes in many shapes and sizes ranging from everyday household objects to large electronic systems like laptops and servers. The EPA states that there are five general categories of e-waste: consumer electronics (e.g., computers & computer monitors), small office/home office equipment (e.g., scanners & copiers), electric tools (e.g., chainsaws & floor buffers), heating/cooling/plumbing equipment (e.g., space heaters & water heaters), and lighting equipment (e.g., fluorescent lamps & high-intensity discharge lights).
From these categories, the most commonly recycled e-waste product is consumer electronics, which makes up about 20% of total e-waste created annually in the United States (U.S. EPA). Especially prominent in this total are computing devices, which can be attributed to the rise in internet usage in America over the last 20 years. With smartphones & laptops becoming more advanced and newer models being released on an annual basis, the number of electronics per household has risen by leaps & bounds.
What can be recovered from old electronics
So now that you have a better understanding of e-waste’s composition, let’s talk about how we can recycle it. According to computer recycling industry veteran Albert Boufarah of SAMR Inc., the first step is dismantling the device to break it down into its most basic components. Once this process has been completed, old circuit boards and other elements are sorted by category and eventually a future use is determined for them, while all data located on hard drives is wiped to DOD standards or physically destroyed. So-called “green metals” are noteworthy for being easier to recycle due to containing a higher concentration of iron & steel. Demand for items containing these metals has grown rapidly over the last several years.
A recycler can then go a step further and sort out these materials into specific batches that match the preferences of the manufacturer who will be obtaining them for reuse in new products. Finally, all leftover parts are sorted by material type to be prepared for melting down and forming into new products, which reduces raw material costs and produces a cleaner environment, and conserves energy usage during creation (according to ITIF). The EPA states that recycling 1 million laptops saves 730 thousand gallons of oil which is equivalent to powering 60,000 homes for one year! This amazing statistic shows how beneficial e-waste recycling is both from an economic & environmental standpoint.
How e-waste recycling benefits the local economy of the recycler
According to Albert Boufarah of e-waste recyclers SAMR Inc., services like those that they provide also contribute economic growth to surrounding areas in addition to the aforementioned economical benefits.
The enterprise that acquires recycled materials builds employment by providing funds to increase staffing levels or directly hiring more employees themselves. The influx of capital into the community increases demand for other types of local business, opening new shops on the main street. The availability of recycled materials can increase innovation within original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), reducing production costs and boosting profits, thus increasing hiring levels.
Additionally, the increased demand for used materials means that a larger revenue stream is introduced into the recycling industry, allowing the expansion of this work to become a boon for both the environment and the economy as a whole.
The economic benefits of electronics recycling are numerous and far reaching. The prices for many of these products are often 5 to 10 times lower than their new counterparts, which increases the demand for these types of products. This would not be possible without the dedicated work of experienced electronics recyclers like SAMR Inc. For more information on the services that they provide, their website is one click away.
SAMR Inc. is also HIPAA compliant and places tremendous importance on the privacy of your sensitive data. Click here to find out more about their data destruction process & hard drive shredding.