Electronic recycling is an alternative approach to waste disposal of unused electronic devices and their components. It is a process of re-using the raw materials in a product to make a new one.
Although recycling is a good way to reuse such raw materials, it can be hazardous to the workers in the yard, to the neighboring communities, and to the environment. In developed countries like the European Union States, recycling takes place in recycling plants built specifically for recycling electric supplies and electronic gadgets.
But in developing countries like Asia, there is no such thing as recycling plants. Hence, there is a possibility that materials such as plastics from e-wastes are recycled, thereby, releasing brominated furans and dioxins into the atmosphere. Also, electronic recycling is often done by children with bare hands in scrap yards.
There are four main types of electronic recyclers. Some recyclers carry out the tasks of collecting, refurbishing, de-manufacturing and processing. In collecting, the collectors receive electronics from the general public and from businesses. The collected material is then shipped to refurbishing, de-manufacturing or processing department.
Collectors come in two kinds: the one who has affiliation with a permanent drop-off site, and the one who operates from a temporary location set up for a specific collection event.
In refurbishing, the refurbisher can be a non-profit or for-profit organization that accepts, sorts, and refurbishes used computer equipment, cellular phones, and other devices for electronic recycling. Products that are reparable are sold or donated after being restored to working condition. Non-reparable components are then sent to a de-manufacturer or processor.
In the de-manufacturing department, the de-manufacturers accept computer equipment and broken computer components. These components are further broken down into plastic housings, wires, metals, and circuit boards. The simpler parts are sent to processors or smelters that have the facility or equipment needed to process such parts.
In processing, the processors accept de-manufactured electronic components, which are broken down into their raw state. The processing includes resource recovery procedures like separation of precious metals, smelting of lead, and incineration of waste to energy. This is also the last stage of recycling before the component is ultimately disposed.
Recycling can reduce or slow down the rate at which landfills are filled. It recovers valuable materials, conserves virgin resources, resulting in lower environmental emissions including greenhouse gases.
Each year, around 128 million cell phones are not being used. These cell phones are discarded, retired or thrown away. Apart from that, obsolete or damaged computer processors and monitors are dispatched in replacement of brand new sets. Around 2 million tons of used electronics including televisions, and media players are discarded.
When done under desirable conditions, electronic recycling can protect public health and the environment from further damage. It can create jobs locally as new businesses are formed to perform any of the four types of recycling.
Finally, instead of creating brand new materials from new raw materials, electronic recycling recovers the valuable materials from old electronics, conserving the natural resources.