Hot Tech Gifts Leave Old Electronics Out in the Cold

Posted by on December 8, 2011

WP-Tech-Gifts-Old-ElectronicsElectronics will again be the gifts of choice this holiday season and consumers will spend about $250 to buy the newest and most innovative technologies, according to analysts with the Consumer Electronics Association. This likely means that for each new gadget received, an outdated one will be replaced.

Q: What’s wrong with sending unwanted electronics to a landfill?

A: Electronics contain cadmium, lead, mercury, nickel and other toxic materials, which if not handled properly, can contaminate soil and groundwater, posing a risk to public health and the environment. To address these potential risks, 25 states have passed e-waste legislation that governs the disposal of old electronics. Nine of those states have banned computer monitors and televisions from landfills. Also keep in mind that many electronic components are assembled from non-biodegradable materials that will accumulate in a landfill. However, many of these materials can be recovered during recycling—just like glass, paper and plastic—and used in new ways.

Q: If electronics don’t belong in a landfill, then what should be done with them?

A: For working electronics, the better option, and the one to consider first, is reuse or donation. This increases the useful lives of these items and delays them from entering the waste stream. If neither reuse nor donation is feasible, recycle e-waste through an electronics manufacturer’s or retailer’s take-back program or a municipal collection event. Reusing and recycling electronics conserve natural resources that would otherwise be consumed by mining and manufacturing virgin materials.

Q: What needs to be done with electronics before recycling them?

A: Before turning over electronics for reuse or recycling, it’s necessary to take steps to protect personal or corporate data. Data left on an old device can potentially lead to identity theft or stolen customer information, so it’s essential to erase data from the hard drives of devices intended for reuse and destroy the hard drives from those marked for recycling. If electronics are sent to a certified recycler, such as Sims Recycling Solutions, special care will be taken to ensure data is destroyed before recycling.

Q: What happens to electronics earmarked for recycling?

A: When end-of-life electronics arrive at Sims, they undergo manual disassembly to remove hazards, such as batteries and mercury bulbs. Then the e-waste is sent to a state-of-the-art shredder to break apart its components. These small pieces are further processed to extract the aluminum, copper, steel, circuit boards, glass and plastic. Finally, these materials are shipped to audited downstream vendors for additional processing and reuse.

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