Electronic waste is a problem that affects everyone. It's not just an unsightly landfill issue; leaking substances from certain components and the breakdown of more solid materials can damage vegetation, poison groundwater, and destroy your local ecosystem. If that doesn't get your attention, you could be throwing away money by not recycling old computers and other electronics for profit. Here's an idea of what electronics waste (ewaste) recycling looks like and how it can put more than just gas money in your pocket.
How Are Electronics Recycled?
If you want to recycle electronics, you have two major choices: full unit recycling or scrap material recycling.
With full unit recycling, you turn in the product as-is. Recycling centers have a database of what types of materials are in specific objects, like desktop computers, washing machines, televisions, or entertainment systems.
Recycling rates for specific metals and minerals change on a daily basis, and you should expect the full unit price to change along with it. Unfortunately, not all databases are updated properly, so you should be sure to look at the unit recycling chart and compare it against the scrap material prices. As long as the price isn't too far off from the scrap cost, turn it in as-is.
If you notice that the materials are worth more when separated and turned in individually, be sure to factor in labor. How much time are you spending to make that extra money, and is it worth it? Would you be better off looking for other units to turn in with that time?
This decision is usually answered by individual components that are worth more than the unit recycling price. Larger than expected amounts of copper or gold could fetch a higher price, so consider taking out these large deposits or bring the higher content to the whole unit recycling program administrator's attention.
What Materials Are Usually Recycled?
Most electronics have a few common materials due to being largely based around the personal computer. Modern electronics have at least a motherboard/main board, a storage drive of some sort, electrical wires, and a cooling system.
This means that there's usually aluminum as some sort of protective case, copper for wiring and cooling, and rare earth magnets inside a power supply connected to the motherboard. These materials all have their own individual recycling rates and even hobby communities dedicated to scrapping the materials efficiently.
Gold is a highly-regarded material in electronics that is falling out of popular use because of the cost. You can usually find a few pins or filings, but it's best to scrape these off and save them for later when the deposit has some decent weight.
Contact an ewaste recycling professional to discuss current recycling rates and best practices for scrapping electronics.Share