Posted May 16th, 2011 by Stephen Roper

With technology moving at a faster rate than ever before and everyone buying the latest gadgets you have to wonder what happens to all the old ones that you no longer want or need. Is there really a safe and green way to dispose of your old gadgets? Does that one extra electronic device that you throw in the bin really cause that much damage to the environment? Its time to find out…

What is Really Inside Electronic Devices?

It really is amazing what these electronic devices that we all use in our everyday lives are made up of. All electronic gadgets contain potentially hazardous and dangerous materials including mercury, arsenic, zinc, nickel, lead, gold, coltan and lots more. These metals and other materials are often found in the circuit board, battery or make up the display. Then there’s the plastic shell that contains natural gas, crude oil and other chemicals.

The big problem is not that these materials are being used to make electronic devices but exactly where they are coming from. Mobile phones for example use a mineral called coltan which is used in the electrical capacitors. The vast majority of the coltan is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo where much of the world’s gorilla population are. As more coltan is mined to be used in mobile phones this has had a devastating effect on the gorilla population as they are poached to feed the miners.

Many of the world’s natural resources are also put into manufacturing electrical equipment which is why recycling is great in order for these materials to be reused.

What Happens to Electronic Waste at Landfill

When an electronic device such as a mobile phone, tablet computer, laptop, digital camera or anything else with a plug or battery is thrown in the bin there is only one place it will eventually end up and that is at landfill. Once there it will be smashed, cracked or burned so that all the parts inside spill out and over the next decade or century they will leach into the air and ground leading to environmental and health hazards.

It’s true that if it was just one mobile phone or digital camera sat at landfill on its own then it wouldn’t pose much of a threat to the environment. However if you take into account that last year in the UK alone over 173 million electrical goods were sold or that every person in the world owns at least one mobile phone you start to get the picture. It’s likely at this point in time that there are literally billions of tonnes of discarded devices sitting at landfill breaking down.

How E-Waste Can be Recycled

Of course the solution to the electronic waste problem is to re-use and recycle as much electronic and electrical equipment as we possibly can.

Any company that recycles e-waste will be interested in two things which are stopping old items from ending up at landfill and also getting the most value out of them. Many online companies such as SpeedSell and Boots Recycle will now buy electronic goods such as laptops, mp3 players, mobile phones and lots more in return for cash or equivalent. Selling your old goods to online companies is a great way of disposing of your small electrical devices and doing your bit for the environment.

Online recyclers at this time will only buy small electrical items which still leaves big items such as TVs, kitchen appliances, DVD players and anything else with a plug potentially going to landfill. It’s been estimated that up to 350,000 tonnes of white goods in the UK end up at landfill sites every year. In order to dispose of these items the best option would be to take them to your local council recycling site to be disposed of correctly.

Using TakeBack Schemes to Recycle Your E-Waste

Some electrical manufacturers such as Dell, Nokia and Sony Ericsson are now offering takeback schemes where they will take away your old items when you buy the latest model. These schemes are great as the company gets their product back to be recycled correctly and the consumer gets money off their new purchase.

If everyone was to start recycling and re-using their electronic equipment when they buy the latest models then the future world will be a better place to live for us all.

Leave a Reply