COVID-19 Update: We continue to operate during the COVID-19 outbreak... Learn more.

These days, everyone owns an electronic. The tech industry is huge and constantly developing advanced toys and new-and-improved devices such as that cell phone or tablet in your hands. Even if you don’t buy into the constant replacement of tech, after a couple years your electronic will either be incompatible with changing trends or lacking the processing speed that we grow accustomed to, and prompting a purchase.

Many businesses have electronic waste drop-off bins or there are junk removal companies who will come to your home to haul away your e-waste. Make sure to ask if your electronics are going to be disposed of safely so you can be confident in making the correct choice about who will handle your e-waste recycling needs.

E-Waste Processing

After the electronic waste has been collected, their components are removed and organized into separate categories for processing. The recyclers remove the ferrous and non-ferrous metals from the devices along with wood, non-leaded glass and plastics. Next is the electronic scrap, consisting of circuit boards, cables, hard drives and other components. Following this, the scrappers are left with all the hazardous materials that were contained in your device. They must safely extract mercury, lead acid, batteries, leaded glass, Cathode Ray Tubes and much more from the waste.

The non-leaded glass and plastic scrap is machine sorted and sent to another recycling facility for processing.

Processing Mixed Metals

The interesting part comes after the mixed metals are melted down in a furnace and pressed into plates. Each plate of mixed metals is submerged into a bath one at a time and given a positive charge. A second, special plate is lowered into the bath. The additional plate is given a negative charge which attracts the copper from the mixed metal plate to the second plate.

A second bath is drawn and the mixed metal plate is once again placed underwater with a positive charge. A steel plate is submerged with a negative charge and pulls the silver off the mixed plate and the silver crystals accumulate on the steel plate after some time.

Once every type of metal and minerals are removed, gold is all that remains. This gold plate can be melted down, shaped into different forms and sold to the manufacturing industry. The space industry uses gold piping; gold rods are compressed and twisted into coils and transformed into fine wire for computer circuitry; gold sheets can be cut into small squares and sold to dentists to be used as dental crowns; gold is bathed in cyanide to create gold salts for the computing industry.

Understanding the Environmental

Handling Fee (EHF)

When you purchase an electronic from a store, you are charged an Environmental Handling Fee. Instead of Government authorities dipping into taxpayers’ money, the EHF covers the costs associated with responsible recycling of your electronics. Emphasis on “responsible,” as sadly, a lot of e-waste is shipped overseas to countries such as China, Nigeria, India and Ghana, where workers are paid low wages and use primitive means of extracting precious metals from devices before tossing the recyclable leftovers into nearby lakes, or burning the materials away.  Not only is this dangerous for the environment, but it is catastrophic for the communities where workers and children are breathing in phosphor dust, chlorinated dioxins, and phthalates (to name just a small few of the heavy toxins present in e-waste). These toxic substances are associated with causing cancer, reproduction problems and a host of other serious complications.

Make the wise choice for your electronic recycling needs. Remember to ask how the electronics are recycled to make sure they are not simply being shipped overseas where there are no regulations for proper and safe e-waste recycling practices.