Five benefits of recycling electronics — for you AND the planet

Earth Day is an annual event to promote sustainability and conservation efforts in support for environmental protection. But like demonstrates, this global issue is more than just a day—it’s a movement.

According to the UN Global E-waste Monitor, the annual generation of electronic waste, or e-waste, is rising by 2.6 million metric tons annually, sounding the alarm that we are on track to reach 82 million metric tons by 2030.

This is a huge issue because electronics are full of non-renewable materials like precious metals, plastics, and toxic materials like lithium, cobalt, and lead. Dumping these products in landfills or burning them incorrectly can leak dangerous toxins like lead and mercury and cause serious health and environmental consequences.

The current state of our environment doesn’t just impact you; it leaves a mark for generations to come. You can help make a difference for our planet by recycling your old and unused electronics.

What is considered e-waste?

E-waste is simply anything electronic. If it has wires, a plug, microchips, batteries, or a screen, it’s e-waste. This includes items like phones, appliances, laptops, watches, e-readers, TVs, computer monitors, flashlights, the list goes on and on.

Another thing to be conscious of is what is categorized as invisible e-waste. These are items that often go unrecognized and aren’t properly recycled due to its appearance. Some examples include power tools, cables, e-cigarettes, and electric toothbrushes.

What are the benefits of recycling your electronics?

  1. It reduces production pollution. Less than 20% of e-waste generated each year is properly recycled. Each bit of precious metal that gets discarded from electronics will have to be replenished with raw materials. The more mining and raw materials used in manufacturing, the more pollution is emitted into the atmosphere. Keep the chain of materials circular by recycling those old electronics rather than tossing them.
  2. It saves nonrenewable resources. Americans throw away up to 8 billion phones every year. Precious metals are lost when old batteries and electronics are tossed into landfills. Materials like gold, silver, and copper are in short supply. If we recycled the billions of phones instead of throwing them out, we could recover over 11 billion pounds of gold yearly which means less mining.
  3. It helps combat climate change. Making electronics generates carbon dioxide, the greenhouse-causing gas. This comes through processes like mining, refining, shipping, and even personal use. Deloitte Global found that cellphones manufactured in 2022 alone generated over 146 million tons of carbon dioxide. Recycling, however, decreases the carbon emissions per electronic unit by 80%!
  4. It protects human health. When toxins found in dumped electronics are released into the environment, we’re exposed to them. Children are particularly vulnerable to toxins produced by improper recycling, such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and plastic chemicals. Proper recycling ensures these toxins are mitigated and properly disposed of for the health of workers, residents, and the environment overall.
  5. It creates environmentally friendly work. The electronic waste recycling industry in the U.S. employs over 45,000 workers and generates $5.5 billion in revenue annually. By diverting e-waste from landfills, recycling facilities provide employment opportunities in roles like sorting and refurbishing. Promoting the model of recycling reduces the demand for raw materials and energy required to manufacture new items, creating more sustainable consumption patterns.

Where can I recycle my waste?

Visit Call2Recycle to find out where to recycle your old cell phone or batteries. By entering your city and state, you will get a list of the closest locations for dropping off your unwanted items.

Best Buy also offers e-waste recycling for your old or broken electronics and appliances. They offer e-waste recycling at all their locations, but what they’ll accept does vary. Be sure to check what your local Best Buy will take here.

Another store offering free recycling services at every location is Staples. During Earth Month, you can get $10 off your purchase of $30 or more when you recycle in-stores. Learn more about how you can earn points and exclusive offers when you recycle.

You can also call your local municipality. They will likely have tips and instructions for recycling e-waste so be sure to investigate before tossing your electronics in your trash.

Written by Celia Red, TDS Communications Intern

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply