Over the past several decades, more and more people have been clued to the importance of recycling. Reusing as much material as we can allows us to preserve our planet’s natural resources while also reducing the pollution created when new items are created in a factory. In recent years, a lot of attention has been focused on waste created by electronic devices like computers, smartphones, and even newer vehicles like hybrids and electric cars. The batteries and computer parts inside these devices should always be recycled if possible, for a number of reasons. Not sure where to start recycling your electronic devices? Here’s some information that might help.
What is Electronic Recycling?
One of the reasons why recycling electronic waste, or “e-waste,” is so important is because the materials used to create electronic components like batteries and LCD screens are in limited supply. These substances, called rare earth elements, are found in very low concentrations and only in certain parts of the world, which makes mining them an expensive and difficult process. There are also political and economic issues that contribute to the scarcity of rare earth elements – nearly 90% of these minerals are currently sourced in China, giving them a near-monopoly and making the ores much more expensive.
The process of mining rare earth ores also has negative effects on the health of nearby populations and the environment at large. These minerals can leach into the soil, causing widespread environmental damage in the area. For these reasons, it’s much more environmentally conscious to recycle the rare earth elements as much as possible. Studies have shown that proper e-waste management could make the environmental impact of technological manufacturing up to 200 times lower.
Some electronic components, like lithium batteries, can be dangerous or harmful to the environment if not disposed of properly. Recycling electronic devices instead of just throwing them away can make a significant difference to the environment and the local ecosystem.
How Does the Process of Recycling Work?
The electronics recycling process works pretty similarly to most other recycling systems. Once the electronic devices have been collected and stored properly, they can go through the process of separation and recovery. Here’s how it works:
Step 1 – Identify the Material Type: The most important part of any recycling process is sorting. Ideally, this should be partially done during the collection phase. This is especially relevant for devices with batteries because they can be damaging to other materials. The separation phase is usually done by hand with workers manually sorting items into categories so they can be processed appropriately.
Step 2 – Break Them Down: Once the e-waste has been sorted, it’s then broken down into smaller pieces. The smaller the piece, the easier it is to mechanically sort later on, so generally, the devices are shredded into pieces of a couple of centimeters or smaller.
Step 3 – Mechanical Separation: The stream of shredded e-waste is next passed through some machines that will separate the materials inside. A magnet is used to pull ferrous metals like iron and steel from the mix, and water further separates the remaining plastic and glass into categories.
Step 4 – Recovery: Once the individual minerals inside each device have been separated and collected, they can be sent to various manufacturing companies to be used in a new product.
What Type of Items Can Be Recycled?
If you just bought a new computer and you’re wondering how to recycle your laptop, then good news: most common electronic devices can be recycled, including cell phones, computers, tablets, newer televisions, cameras, audio equipment, power tools, and appliances like microwaves and toaster ovens. In fact, California has made it illegal to throw these objects away in the trash, so recycling is really your only option in the San Francisco area. There are only a few items that can’t be recycled in a regular way, mostly because they contain mercury. Old TVs manufactured before 1991 might contain mercury and even older CRT televisions often contained lead, so both of these will have to be handled separately.
In San Francisco, you can’t just put e-waste in the regular blue or green recycling bins. Instead, you can either call for a bulky item pickup or bring the expired devices down to the SF transfer center yourself. You can bring up to 30 recycled items per month for free, after that, it’ll cost you for every device you bring in.
For a more specific list of what you can and can’t recycle, there are plenty of websites and even an AI assistant for recycling, so you can get a list that’s accurate to your municipality.
How to Locate a Qualified Electronics Recycler in Your Area
You can always head to Google and run a search for “recycle laptops near me” if you want to find the nearest electronics recycler, but we recommend taking a little more care with the search, especially if you’re looking for a private company instead of a city service. These days, it’s increasingly common for businesses to hop on board the recycling train as an advertising perk, but they don’t have the experience or even much of an interest in doing things properly. It’s important to find a company that you know will handle your e-waste correctly so you can rest assured that you’re contributing to a more circular manufacturing system.
At Junk King, we’ve been committed to recycling since the day we were founded, and we work hard to make sure we reuse everything we can. Currently, about 60% of everything we bring in is recycled, from e-waste to construction debris, and we’re trying to get that number even higher. If you want a junk hauling company that you can be certain will do everything right, call Junk King for electronic recycling in San Francisco. You can contact us online through our website or give us a call at 1-888-888-JUNK to get a no-strings-attached price estimate.