As we write this, we’re looking around our office and counting the devices we’re using. We have a personal mobile phone, one for work purposes, and a traditional land line. We do most of our business on a desktop computer. As we walk around Bee Green Recycling or visit a job site, we frequently take notes on a tablet. That’s five devices, and it doesn’t count video monitors, routers, or computer cables and chargers.
That’s a lot of electronics.
The average personal computer lasts somewhere between three and eight years before it locks up or becomes obsolete, and it seems a new phone comes out every few months. In 1980, folks in the U.S. bought 300,000 desktop computers, and purchased 500% more the following year. That market continues to grow, and last year around 342 million computers were shipped around the world. As software and hardware improves and people yearn for the latest gizmo, the waste from these devices begins to add up.
Each year, Americans toss around 255,000 tons of computers and smart devices. About 80% of that simply ends up in a landfill somewhere, and around 85% of that ends up in an incinerator.
There are two problems with this:
1) Many of the materials used to make your device work are finite resources – there’s a limited supply.
2) Many of the metals and chemicals used to create your device end up leaching into the ground, where it could contaminate water supplies and release heavy metals into the air.
Among the metals used in device manufacturing are lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium. Your smartphone likely contains parts made with gold, silver, and palladium. Your batteries are most likely lithium-ion, and require cobalt to manufacture.
Your average office high-rise – while relying more and more on WiFi connections – is laced with miles and miles of ethernet and other cables. That’s hundreds of pounds of copper in every building.
There are a number of devices that we don’t accept, like smartphones and monitors. We don’t recycle glass, plastic, or the batteries. But we do take the hard infrastructure that makes your devices hum – computer towers, cables, etc.
Recycling those items with us does a good thing for the environment and it puts a few bucks into your pocket.
Be smart with your smart device.