When you think of recyclables, you may think of scrap metal such as copper, an aluminum can, a plastic milk jug — things of that nature. Most likely, e-waste recycling, like cellphones and laptops, isn’t the first thing to come into your mind. However, perhaps it should be, or at least a consideration. As a business, numerous benefits can be reaped from recycling electronics.
As a business, this will be your go-to guide to help you to understand the benefits and processes regarding recycling electronics. However, before we dive into the nitty-gritty of business electronics recycling, you need to understand a little bit of the basis of E-waste – rare earth metals.
What is E-Waste
Electronic waste comes from computers, cell phones, TVs, and other pieces of technology. The waste portion or problem if you will is that these devices contain toxic rare earth minerals.
In the business context, this could be desktop and laptop computers, printers, copiers, cell and desktop phones, fax machines, tablets – any of the electronics that you use to run your day to day operations!
Rare earth minerals are mined for the unique chemical properties that lend themselves to being very useful in building electronic devices ranging from consumer goods to private sector businesses, and even a variety of military uses, including missiles and night vision devices.
Unfortunately, the process of mining and refining these metals is not only severely damaging to the environment, but also the health of those who work with and around them. In addition to the processing and mining of these materials, when the devices in which they are contained are improperly disposed of, these minerals can be released, causing significant environmental harm and public health issues.
Scale of the Problem
According to The Balance Small Business, a report from the World Economic Forum states that E-waste is now the fastest-growing waste stream in the world, with an estimated waste stream of 48.5 million tonnes in 2018. Unfortunately, an article from CBC states that worldwide, only about 20 percent of E-waste gets recycled.
The numbers are staggering; consider the volume of electronics that individual, private citizens own, let alone businesses. It is a problem that by all accounts will continue to grow as consumer electronics become easier to acquire and business becomes increasingly more based in the digital space. In fact, according to the Global E-Waste Statistics Partnership, in 2016, the amount of E-waste had grown by 8 percent since 2014.
So how can you, as a business, help to stem the tide of this unique problem, and what are the benefits? Read on.
What Are the Laws Governing E Waste?
Currently, the United States has no Federal E waste laws managed across the board; it varies by state. However, the EPA reports that twenty-five U.S. states currently have electronics recycling laws. Depending on where you are located, different statutes govern how you must handle your E-waste.
For example, Michigan bans electronics in landfills and mandates recycling, requires manufacturers to have “Take Back” programs for consumers, and requires electronics manufacturers and recyclers to register with the state and pay registration fees (source: Northeast Recycling Council). However, other Midwestern states such as Iowa and Ohio do not have such laws.
Although there may not be federally mandated E-waste recycling laws in your state, you as a business you should still recycle your E-waste as there are numerous benefits. You can check out more information on whether its illegal to throw away electronics here.
Environmental Benefits of Recycling E-Waste
>When you or businesses recycle electronics, it can be processed, and the rare earth minerals can be extracted. The process of extracting these compounds means that they can be repurposed and used again and therefore means less environmentally damaging mining and fewer people in danger.
In addition to having to mine less of these toxic materials, when these items are recycled, they don’t end up in already crowded landfills, (the EPA reports that in 2017, the total amount of Municipal Solid Waste sent to landfills was 139.6 million tons).
When E-waste is improperly disposed of, the toxins inside can leach out into the environment causing innumerable amounts of harm such as the poisoning of groundwater, contaminating local aquifers, kill animals and wreak havoc on the food chain.
Business Electronics Recycling Benefits
While the environmental benefits of recycling your E-waste are numerous, such as an overall healthier planet, recycling your E-waste can also help stimulate the economy.
Just as you and your company support jobs, as does the recycling industry. An article published in Recycling Today, the recycling industry is responsible for more than 531,500 jobs and an overall economic impact of nearly $110 billion.
Electronics commonly contain precious metals such as gold and silver. An article published in July 2018 by the “New York Times” references a United Nations University report which claims that, “the raw materials contained in E-waste were worth roughly $61 billion in 2016, more than the gross domestic product of even middle-income countries like Croatia or Costa Rica”.
The article also states that “the precious metals in E-waste, found especially in circuit boards, are more concentrated than in the most productive mines. In 2016, the gold in the world’s E-waste equaled more than a tenth of the gold mined globally that year. Yet much of this treasure is reburied in landfills. Based on e-waste disposal rates, Americans alone throw out phones worth $60 million in gold and silver every year”.
As we mentioned before, it’s more than an environmental impact that not having to mine for new materials provides, it also saves money. Mining isn’t just envionmentally harmful, but it is expensive. Being able to re-use the already mined materials is a positive impact.
Changes to E-Waste Legislation Today
While there are no current federal e waste laws, things could soon be changing. According to the EPA, the U.S. EPA works with government officials around the world on e-waste management. In 2011 the U.S. EPA partnered with the Taiwanese EPA to establish the International E-Waste Management Network, which brought together countries ranging from Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and North America to exchange best practices on e-waste management.
The EPA also reports that this year, they participated in the launch of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization Global Environment Facility program whose goal is to” strengthen national initiatives and enhance regional cooperation or lead to environmentally sound management of E-waste.” The plan was also able to develop a tool to strengthen the ability of participating countries to assess how much e-waste is generated, imported, and exported.
If the United States government is working multi-nationally to start addressing the E-waste issue around the globe, it may not be long until we see more sweeping changes in federal E-waste laws.
How to Prepare your E-Waste for Recycling
So you’ve decided to have your business recycle its electronics, to reap the financial benefits and help the environment. There are some steps you can take as a business to help prepare your items for processing.
Separate items such as batteries from other electronics such as phones and printers. Separate all electronics or anything tech-related from other recyclables and refuse. Remove ink and toner cartridges from printers and fax machines and sort them into separate bins.
Of course, you can transport items to a recycling facility on your own, but why go through the hassle and pain of having to navigate the ins and outs of a certified electronics recycling facility? Your best bet is to contact an electronics recycling firm such as Great Lakes Electronics Corporation, which will arrange pick up and responsibly dispose of the items so that you don’t have to! Even the largest electronics manufacturers and sellers like Best Buy use E-waste recycling services.
Don’t forget the human element of the equation. Preparing your E-waste and preparing for any recycling program as a whole means getting your staff to buy into the program.
Educating employees on the benefits of the recycling program can help staff to fall in line with the plan and lead to greater success. Additionally, offering an incentive or some form of reward program to help promote recycling in your company can also be useful.
Culture is important, getting your team to buy into the idea of recycling your E-waste and the benefits of it, is a significant key to preparing your materials and successfully getting them recycled.
Recycling your E-Waste with Great Lakes Electronics Corporation
E-Waste is a massive problem in our modern, technology-driven world, and business electronics recycling makes up the lion’s share of the impact. Despite it not being federally mandated, businesses should look to recycle their E-waste. There are many merits to recycling E-waste rather than merely throwing it away. Recycling your E-waste benefits the environment in a myriad of ways as well as making you money!
A great way to recycle e-waste is to contact an electronic recycling firm like Great Lake Electronics Corporation. We will assist you in the processing and recycling of the waste in a proper, environmentally-friendly manner and, of course, will compensate you based on the market value of the items that you are bringing to us.