Electronics Recycling

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“Merry Christmas!” my dad exclaimed as I tore away the wrapping paper and revealed the new iPhone beneath. For months, my cell phone had hardly been functioning, so I was thrilled when I received a sleek and impressive new one. Later that Christmas, I activated my shiny smartphone, tossing my old cell phone into the junk drawer. I did not see, touch, or even think about my old phone again until months later, when I unearthed it while cleaning and mindlessly threw it into the trash can.

Little did I suspect that I was cutting short the life cycle of precious materials that could have been recycled and reused. According to “Chapter 1: Portable Electronics: The Periodic Table in the Palm of Your Hand” of Chemistry in Context, it is immensely important to recycle electronics because their production requires an enormous amount of energy (Fahlman et al., 2018). Unfortunately, however, only 3% of old electronics are recycled, and there are still limitations to our ability to recycle electronics (Fahlman et al., 2018). In fact, before reading this chapter, I considered old electronics either trash or an opportunity for profit, but I now understand that used electronics are actually treasures that should be recycled.

As a student living in the Age of Technology, I have owned numerous iPods, smartphones, televisions, and laptops throughout my life. In the past, I have disposed of my old and unwanted gadgets in two ways. Most often, I have simply discarded them, throwing them into the trash and watching as they were whisked away to landfills. Less frequently, I have sold them to my friends and neighbors. This reusage may seem environmentally friendly at first. However, it is likely that the new owners eventually threw away the electronics, so they probably still ended up in landfills. While I have discarded and sold old electronics countless times, I have never even considered the environmental impact of my actions because I was completely uninformed about recycling electronics.

I had always assumed that lightweight, modern electronics were more environmentally friendly than cumbersome, outdated ones, and I thought that the majority of electronics’ energy consumption stemmed from their use of electricity. In fact, before reading this chapter, I was unaware that it is possible to recycle technologies like cell phones and computers. After researching, I discovered that I was certainly not the only one who had never heard of electronics recycling. While electronics comprise the most rapidly growing waste segment, only about half of people who own electronics are aware of technology recycling (Opalka, 2014). However, in the past three decades, overall recycling rates have tripled (Environmental Protection Agency, 2018). Perhaps media has focused so entirely on recycling items like plastic bottles and paper that the electronic sector has been neglected, and consumers have remained oblivious to the environmental effects of their devices.

Fortunately, studying the chemistry behind electronics has obliterated my misconceptions and transformed my perspective, convincing me that recycling electronics is crucial. After reading this chapter, I understand that the usage of electronics is only a small part of their environmental impact. Indeed, the production of electronics constitutes over 90% of their total energy consumption because of the wide variety of materials required to manufacture them (Fahlman et al., 2018).

Also, I have learned that the latest technologies consume even more energy due to the extra materials, silicon microprocessors, and intensive design they require (Fahlman et al., 2018). Overall, recycling electronics is necessary because it is economically, environmentally, and socially profitable. First, recycling electronics is economically beneficial because of the valuable metals that can be harvested from used devices. Each year, Americans alone discard over $60 million in gold and silver by throwing away their cell phones (Button, 2016). If the electronics sector were to harness the potential profit of recycling materials from old devices, it would save billions of dollars (Button, 2016). Second, recycling electronics is environmentally friendly because devices contain rare earth metals and precious metals that require large amounts of energy to mine from ores (Fahlman et al., 2018).

By reusing these metals, mining and purifying can be avoided, saving energy (Fahlman et al., 2018). In fact, a laptop can be charged for approximately 44 hours using the energy saved by recycling one cell phone (May, 2015). Finally, recycling electronics is beneficial to society because electronic waste is often toxic. Often, old electronics are dumped in developing countries, exposing locals to harmful materials like lead and chromium, and properly recycling electronics can help alleviate this issue (World Health Organization, 2018). Because recycling electronics is economically, environmentally, and socially advantageous, I believe that it is a sustainable practice that all Americans should strive to participate in.

While I certainly advocate for recycling old devices, I also understand that there are still many obstacles that complicate electronics recycling. For instance, only about 29% of electronic waste is recycled through the best practices (Button, 2016). Because it is ten times cheaper, recycled electronics are often exported to developing countries where safety and environmental regulations are more lax (Vos, 2012). In these countries, untrained individuals often recycle materials from devices, exposing themselves to and contaminating the environment with hazardous chemicals (Vos, 2012).

Nevertheless, consumers can combat this issue by recycling through companies supported by e-Stewards, a program that ensures globally responsible electronics recycling (e-Stewards, 2018). Even when electronics are recycled properly, extracting reusable metals from them is immensely challenging because they must be separated from the many other materials present (Fahlman et al., 2018). However, this problem is quickly being overcome, and researchers at Yale University recently developed an electrochemical filter that separates desired metals from a mixture of materials using electric potential (Kegley, 2018). Thus, although there are issues with electronics recycling, I still believe that devices should be recycled because such challenges can be managed.

In summary, before reading this chapter, I have always merely thrown away or sold my old electronics, but I now grasp the importance of recycling them. While the electronics recycling sector is limited, I can still recycle my old devices now by carefully selecting companies to recycle through. More specifically, as a result of reading this chapter and researching electronic waste, I plan to recycle my electronics through Samsung or Staples in the future. Both of these companies are e-Stewards certified, so I feel confident that they will ethically handle my old devices.

Further, by reading this chapter, I have come to understand why it is necessary to recycle electronics, and I aim to raise awareness about the growing issue of electronic waste by sharing my new knowledge. Regarding environmentalism, Dr. Jane Goodall once declared, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make” (Goodreads Inc., 2018). I have always strived to leave a positive impact on the world I inhabit, and studying electronic waste has further enabled me to accomplish this goal.


Cite this paper

Electronics Recycling. (2021, Mar 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/electronics-recycling/



How do I dispose of a TV in Las Vegas?
To dispose of a TV in Las Vegas, you can either contact a professional e-waste recycling company or drop it off at a designated electronic waste recycling center. It is important to properly dispose of electronics to prevent harm to the environment and potential fines.
How do I dispose of electronics in my area?
There are a few ways to dispose of electronics in your area. One way is to take them to a local recycling center. Another way is to contact your local waste management company to see if they offer electronics recycling.
What electronics can't be thrown away?
Some electronics can't be thrown away because they have harmful toxins that can contaminate the environment. They need to be recycled or disposed of properly.
What is recycling fee Best Buy?
Products we recycle for a $29.99 fee per item : Limit two monitors per household per day.
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