5 Myths About E-waste and E-waste Recycling Debunked

Recycling your old electronics is always a good idea. End-of-life Computers, laptops, tablets, mobile phones and more are piling up, and landfills are definitely not the best places for them.

Most electronic devices contain rare elements and metals that, though useful for satisfying our high demand for newer and newer devices, are toxic to the environment and harmful to public health.

Debunking E-waste Recycling Myths

The clear solution is electronics recycling. Yet, the practice is fraught with a number of myths that tend to hinder it. In this post, we’ll take a look at the some of the most common myths associated with e-waste recycling in hopes of debunking our way to better methods for getting rid of our old gadgets.

Most of it just ends up overseas rather than recycled.

Much has been written and reported on the detrimental export of e-waste – most of it echoing one resounding theme: fraud. The jig, according to reports, is that much of the electronic waste collected for recycling is never actually recycled on U.S. soil. Instead, it’s shipped overseas to countries like Africa and China.

There’s quite a bit of evidence to support such claims. A 2015 United Nations report concluded that up to 90% of the world’s e-waste is shipped to developing nations. E-waste export guru-organization, the Basel Action Network, also recently reported high rates of overseas shipment of e-waste after tracking several devices collected at various Goodwills throughout the U.S.

Does this mean e-waste recycling is a lost cause? After all, if most electronics are simply shipped overseas where we as a nation no longer have to deal with them, but where they’re still able to wreak havoc on the environment and local public health, is it really worth it to recycle e-waste?

Yes, of course. Consumers and businesses alike can ensure their electronics won’t end up polluting impoverished regions overseas. Always check your recycling center. Certain certifications, like the E-Stewards certification, require recyclers never to ship electronics overseas. Ensuring that a responsible recycler is the definite destination for your electronics can reduce fraudulent e-waste exports and help the environment to boot.

It’s okay to toss your electronics in the trash as the city waste department will likely separate it out.

It is definitely not true that your city’s waste department will separate electronics when they are placed in the trash. What does happen to electronics dumped in the wrong place?

In states with landfill bans prohibiting electronic devices and appliances from going to the city landfill, you may be fined. Such fines are usually assigned based on city ordinances. For instance, in Denver fines range from $150 to $999, and in New York, which put its landfill ban in place in 2015, fines are $100 per item.

Currently 20 states have landfill bans in place and more are set to add legislation to the books in the near future. That makes tossing your device in the trash an illegal act in most states. Don’t forget sending your electronics back to the original manufacturer is always a perfectly viable option. Most electronics manufacturers include information on how to do so on the device’s instruction and information manuals.

The landfills are so huge that a few cords and appliances won’t make a difference.

For the few among us who have actually seen a landfill in person, the size of these extremely large ditches are phenomenal, but that doesn’t mean a few electronics here and there can do no harm. The main issue with tossing electronics into the trash to eventually end up in landfills has more to do with what’s contained on the inside of most modern-day electronics.

Although size does matter when it comes to electronics and landfills, the main point is the hazardous contents of electronics, such as mercury and lead can leak, leach and seep into the air and soil leading to environmental and health issues. Hazardous substances may also eventually find a way to seep into groundwater, causing even more risks and threats to public health.

Just keep your old gadgets in your desk drawer or stored away. It can’t do any harm.

It’s easy to get carried away with the idea that hoarding your electronics, whether due to laziness or sheer uncertainty about where exactly they should be taken, is the right way to go. After all it’s less threatening to the environment than dumping it into the trash, and less likely to end up shipped to a developing country where it could cause even more harm.

It’s not entirely true that storing electronics does no harm, however. Every device stored away means one less device recycled for its reusable components like gold, silver, platinum and more. It’s no secret that electronics contain rare and valuable materials, and many of these are hard (and expensive) to find elsewhere.

The rare and valuable materials contained in electronics are important keys to the economy of the recycling industry. More importantly, they could also help wean industries off less environmentally sound recovery processes like mining and fracking – not to mention the illegal rare earth minerals trade in war-torn regions like the African Congo.

It’s risky to recycle – too many data thieves out there.

Data thieves are a huge problem with electronics. That’s no lie. However, that shouldn’t stop you or your company from participating in a reliable and trustworthy recycling program.

Taking just a few moments to ensure that all sensitive information is cleared from your device can eliminate the risk of having your data stolen post collection. Several apps and a variety of stand alone software can be used for data wiping in ways that make your data completely irretrievable, or at least unusable, after it’s sent for recycling.

In addition, at least one excellent recycler employs the use of video camera surveillance of its shredding process along with certificates of destruction offered to clients to ensure and guarantee that information is never lost or stolen when a device is sent for recycling.

E-waste Myths Debunked

Of all the myths about the rising proliferation of electronic devices circulating through global markets, the biggest one is that recycling can not make a difference. It can, and it will. Getting past the mixed messages and myths behind e-waste recycling is one of the first steps toward making the sustainable reduction, control and management of e-waste a reality.