It feels like each week a new electronic gadget is launched and hailed as a replacement for what was just released months ago. At the rate that new electronic items are being released and current electronics are becoming obsolete, electronic waste (e-waste) is becoming an issue – it’s growing at an exponential rate. While some people may stash their old items in a drawer somewhere or just throw them out, electronics possess a variety of reusable materials, including plastics and other precious metals that could be recycled. Recycling electronics not only removes items from landfills but it also prevents the leakage of heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which have both a toxic effect on living organisms and an exceptionally long lifespan.
The Lower East Side Ecology Centre of New York was one of the first organizations to provide a community based recycling and compost program. They also provide a range of services and education on environmental subjects, such as organics collection/composting and electronic waste recycling. Over the last year, the Lower East Side Ecology Centre has collected one million pounds of electronic waste. They’ve recycled 95 percent of it and resold or refurbished the remaining 5 percent.
So what does e-waste become? Well, almost anything – shoes, jewelry, furniture, clothing, clocks, picture frames, key chains, and artwork for starters. Retail analyst, Reed Gocha recently told Sparta that he has heard of consumers buying products without realizing they are made from recycled e-waste.
“I have had multiple people brag about something they have purchased and then I tell them that it was made from electronic waste and they suddenly love the product even more. So, obviously consumers like the idea of e-waste as a purchasing option,” Gocha said.
One ton of recycled smartphones yields 324 times more gold than the same weight in ore from a traditional mine. When you consider this and the fact that e-waste recycling decreases landfill use and protects ground water quality, electronic recycling sounds like an obvious step in the fight to preserve our environment.