When we are ready to upgrade our electronics and throw out the old, it’s tempting to simply put it in the trash. But most of us at least know by now that electronics in a landfill is an environmental recipe for disaster. So many of us want to do the right thing and e-recycle our electronics. So we bring it to the recycler thinking that is all we need to do. What we don’t realize is if that recycler isn’t certified, we might be doing more harm than good. In fact, we might be contributing to global dumping, and when it comes to electronics, recycling is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.
Dangerous Chemical Compounds
Think that just because you’ve taken an electronic item to the recycler that it isn’t being dumped elsewhere in a giant landfill? Think again. Many recyclers make money here in the U.S. by passing on those electronics to global waste traders in developing countries. There, without the protections of organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency, workers are often paid very low wages to sort through and dismantle very dangerous chemical compounds. Sure, it is out of our landfills. But the same item ends up in the landfills of the third world, sometimes harming people along the way.
These operations have sometimes been referred to as “backyard,” which is a cruelly ironic term considering some of these businesses literally do operate in the backyard of the people who work there. This can lead to some seriously dangerous behaviors. For instance, it isn’t uncommon for people to smash open cathode tubes, releasing dangerous phosphorous, or cook down circuit boards over open fires in order to get to the metal components inside. Burning the plastic casings of most electronics creates some of the most toxic fumes a person could ever breathe in.
It is difficult to find reliable numbers for how much e-waste is transported overseas, but some estimates are as high as 50 – 80% of everything we try to recycle. Some experts have called China the electronic wastebasket of the world due to the number of dump sites made up solely of Western electronics. We can make a dent in this problem right here at home, however. Electronic recycling in San Diego should always be done through an EPA certified recycler. That way you can be assured that your products are handled to the highest standard of safety – not winding their way over to a dumpsite across the globe.