E-Waste Recycling is more important than ever before. As of 2021, the average American has more than ten electronic devices in their household, including laptops, PCs, and at least two cell phones. Businesses and institutions operate many pieces of IT equipment on their premises, and in many cases, issue several devices to their employees.
Much of this hardware is intentionally designed to have a short service life, after which the equipment is replaced by more advanced models of the same type or entirely new devices that improve on performance. In 2020, the average desktop system in the consumer sector was replaced after the age of six years. With over 157,000,000 adults in the US with computers, this means that an average of 26,000,000 desktop computers and laptops are being replaced each year. Corporate IT equipment usage often has even shorter life spans with many companies replacing laptops and servers every 3 – 4 years.
With this design for quick obsolescence, there are companies that recycle electronics for cash which helps recycle old electronics such as television sets, desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones from ending up in landfill sites.
According to a recent study by the UN, about 50 million tons of such material were discarded worldwide as e-waste.
E-waste is an umbrella term and general abbreviation for Environmental or Electronic waste, consisting of materials and products containing substances that may be damaging or harmful to health or the environment, and whose proper disposal typically requires special handling and techniques.
Much of this material originates in IT equipment and other electronic devices; e-waste has become largely synonymous with “Electronic waste” and describes used electronic devices which are nearing the end of their useful service life. These devices are then thrown away, donated to charities or other institutions, or sent to a recycling service.
E-waste is sometimes referred to as “end-of-life electronics”, “e-scraps”, or “e-scrap”. The US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) considers e-waste to be a sub-category of used electronics and “recognizes the inherent value of these materials that can be reused, refurbished or recycled to minimize the actual waste that might end up in a landfill or improperly disposed of in an unprotected dump site either in-country or abroad.”
E-waste recycling also shines a spotlight on environmental protection by emphasizing the proper handling, processing, and management of hazardous waste materials and toxic substances such as mercury, lead, and cadmium. And from a practical standpoint, the recycling of e-waste is reducing pressure on already over-stressed landfill sites and incinerators.
The reduction of e-waste volumes at landfill sites is also beneficial to the environment. Some two-thirds of waste on landfill sites is biodegradable and capable of breaking down into its constituent elements. This process often releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane, contributing to global warming.