E-waste or electronic waste has become more and more of an issue over the years. This is because the number of electronic devices the average person has increased. It started with a television set, a home computer, and a video game system. Today, people own multiple TVs, computers, laptops, smartphones, wearables, game consoles, and much more. Everything seems to have the potential to be a smart device now, which means there’s a higher demand for computer chips, motherboards, and other materials.
Electronics can and do often last for years, but many people replace them sooner than that. Think about your last smartphone. Was it broken when you replaced it, or did you simply upgrade to a newer model? Did you turn in the old phone for recycling? Many people do because cell phone recycling is fairly easy. However, that’s not necessarily true with televisions, computers, and other devices. They’re not always recycled, and that can lead to a lot of e-waste going into the landfill every year.
Why is that a big deal? Let’s take a look at some of the alarming statistics regarding e-waste and why it’s important to recycle these devices. Fortunately, it’s easy to recycle electronics and other items if you partner with Junk King Cincinnati.
How Much E-Waste Goes into the Landfill Every Year?
One of the most alarming statistics is the amount e-waste that goes into the landfill every year. According to one survey, over 50 million tons of electronic trash are created every year. In 2019, the U.S. alone generated almost 7 million tons. That might not seem like that much when compared to other types of waste, but the amount isn’t quite as important as what this waste is made up of.
When you think of a television, smartphone, or computer monitor, you think it’s mostly plastic, metal, and glass. That may be what you see, and that material is important. Most of it can be recycled, after all. However, it’s what’s inside these devices that’s really important.
Nearly every electronic device out there contains copper, silver, gold, and palladium. Each device may not use a lot of each of these precious metals, but when you throw out enough of them to make 7 million tons, you have a significant amount of gold and other materials. In fact, in 2019, the U.S. threw away enough of these precious metals to equal about $7.5 billion dollars. Gold, silver, copper, and palladium are now sitting in landfills across the country.
As more devices become internet-capable or include additional technology, the amount of electronic waste is only going to increase. That $7.5 billion dollar amount may soon double or even triple.
Are We Running Out of these Metals?
With so many devices going into the landfill every year, the question then becomes one of scarcity. Are we going to run out of gold, palladium, and the other metals we need? It’s possible. While copper, silver, and even gold are fairly abundant, they’re not limitless. Palladium, a metal you may not have heard of before, is even rarer than gold. According to experts, there’s actually 30 times more gold than there is palladium. That’s why palladium prices have reached over $2,000 an ounce. This metal isn’t just used in electronics, either. Like gold, silver, and copper, it’s used in many industries. Palladium can be found in vehicles, jewelry, medical equipment, and various industrial trade products.
Fortunately, we’re not running out of these precious metals tomorrow. However, if we continue to increase our need for them, we may reach the point where we do run low. Since we use all of them in multiple ways, we may find that there comes a point where we have to decide which industries we prioritize. There might come a day when gold, for example, cannot be used in jewelry because we need it for electronics.
Does Recycling E-Waste Really Help?
Does it really help to recycle your old computers, televisions, phones, and other devices? Yes, actually. While there have been some questions about recycling plastics and other materials, there’s no question that recycling electronics is helpful. According to studies, if one million people recycle their old smartphones, we can recoup copper (35,000 lbs), silver (700 lbs), and gold (70 lbs) as well as palladium and other materials. That’s just smartphones. Many more of these precious metals are used in computers, laptops, tablets, and other devices.
Experts have also determined that recycling is actually more profitable than mining when it comes to gold. It’s more time- and cost-effective to gather old electronics, remove the gold used in them, and recycle it, so a number of companies have actually started focusing their efforts on recycling over mining. Part of this is the amount of gold in a ton. A single ton of old circuit boards has several dozen times more gold than a ton of mined ore, and it’s much easier to procure.
Most of this metal can be reused without much loss. That means when we recycle gold, we essentially get the same amount of usable gold out of the process as we put into it. This means if we recycled a billion smartphones, we should be able to make a billion new ones. However, that does depend on production techniques. In the future, we may need fewer metals or even find more abundant or synthetic materials that can be substituted for gold, palladium, and other metals.
The Dangers of Not Recycling Electronics
The biggest downside or danger of not recycling electronics is going to be cost. The more precious metals we send to the landfill, the more we will have to rely on mining to extract the necessary materials. This means the overall cost of electronics and other products that use these metals is going to increase and may even become harder to find. Today, smartphones, tablets, and computers are commonplace and easy to purchase, but if gold were to become incredibly scarce, that could change.
It won’t happen tomorrow, of course, but there’s a chance that our grandchildren or great-grandchildren could face that reality if we don’t recycle these metals.
Another danger of not recycling is that it damages the environment. Electronic devices may contain different materials that are hazardous to the environment. This was fairly common in older devices such as CRT monitors, but current devices still contain batteries that can cause damage to the soil or water if they leak. This is likely to occur over time as the batteries begin to break down. This can then affect plants, animals, and humans who live near the landfill.
Finally, not recycling some devices can actually be a danger to you and your identity. Old computers, phones, and other devices that aren’t properly disposed of or recycled may contain personal information that you do not want others to have. If these devices were found and contain that information, you could be facing identity theft. Recycling ensures that this won’t happen because experts destroy all data on the devices.
How Do You Recycle Electronic Devices?
Recycling some electronic devices is fairly simple in some cases. You can often trade in your old phone for refurbishment or recycling. Sometimes, this even gives you a small discount on your new phone, so there is some financial incentive to recycling.
Recycling other devices, though, it’s not always quite this easy. You can’t put electronics in the city recycling bins. Some stores, especially stores that specialize in electronics, will accept some devices for recycling. For some devices such as laptops, it can be fairly easy to drop them off for recycling. For other things, though, it’s not as easy. Taking a 50-inch television in for recycling can be much more of a chore.
Call Junk King Cincinnati—We Make Recycling Electronics Easy
If you don’t want to lug your old television, computer, or other device to the store for recycling, there’s a much easier option: call Junk King Cincinnati! Unlike many other junk hauling companies, we don’t take everything to the landfill. Instead, we go through all of the items we pick up and sort out anything that can be donated or recycled. This means if you have a piece of furniture or an appliance that still works, we’ll make sure it gets to a local organization that helps those in need.
For items that are broken, including electronics, we look to see what we can recycle. We firmly believe in redirecting as much as possible from the landfill. We understand how valuable e-waste is, and we do everything we can to see to it that the materials in electronics get recycled.
Junk King Cincinnati handles furniture, appliances, electronics, yard waste, DIY construction debris, and more. As long as it isn’t hazardous, we can haul it away. To learn more or get a free, no-obligation quote, give us a call at 1-888-888-JUNK or send us a text to 1-737-888-5865. You can also book online.