You know the old saying: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

If you’re conscious about the environment, then you know this fact as well: not all waste is meant to be destroyed, meaning there are many materials that can be reused or refurbished for further use.

Right now, you might be thinking, “Well, isn’t this what recycling is all about?” Not quite.

Recycling is the old way of thinking

Recycling requires breaking down a piece of equipment into raw components using chemical, shredding or mechanical processes. Upcycling, on the other hand, does not require degradation, thus saving energy and resources by allowing a product to immediately be converted into something better.

According to our friends at Sustainable Silicon Valley,

“Upcycling is not only a simple solution to a rampant waste problem; it’s a new way of thinking about how we can utilize and work with the abundance of waste products available right at our fingertips….Most people have encountered some form of upcycling in the course of their lives, for instance, if you’ve ever used an old egg carton as a flower pot, or used newspaper for a paper mâché project.”

What does this have to do with e-waste? Everything.

E-waste: A global problem

Upcycling electronics is the best solution for solving the world’s e-waste problem.

Although e-waste only accounts for about 2% to 3% of the volume in our landfills, it contributes close to 80% of overall toxic waste. What doesn’t stay here gets shipped to landfills in developing countries. About 70% to 80% of e-waste is shipped to landfills in many developing nations, where it is sorted and sold for scrap metal or burned to extract materials, which is harmful to people and the surrounding environment.

Guiyu, China, a village in eastern Guangdong province has been known infamously for over a decade as the “e-waste capital of the world.” At one point, it was estimated that as much as 70% of the e-waste in the world used to come through Guiyu. Over the last few years, however, Chinese authorities have clamped down on the amount of e-waste being imported into the area.

However, there are plenty of other developing countries—including Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan and India—that get their share of e-waste coming from the United States.

This may be the furthest thing from your mind when you’re in charge of finding the quickest and most efficient way to dispose of e-waste for your business or organization. But it’s the most important.

The dirty little secret of the e-waste recycling industry is that many waste management companies are still paid to recycle rather than reuse e-waste. That means when you get one of those big companies to haul off all your old computers, servers and phones, there is still a chance that your e-waste will get exported to Nigeria or India.

Although more viable than some alternatives, recycling is not the most economically or environmentally efficient solution.

You should always try to work with an e-recycling vendor that places a priority on reusing electronics. There are huge energy savings with upcycling, and reuse provides fewer chances for e-waste to be shipped overseas.

Why choose upcycling?

Today every business and industry has a number of electronic devices. The useful life of this equipment will end at some point and disposing of it in an environmentally responsible manner will become necessary.

As the number of these surplus electronics increases dramatically every year, their proper disposal through upcycling becomes even more critical.

At Surplus Service, we believe in this principle so much that we coined the term UpcyclIT® as a registered trademark of our company to show our commitment to this alternative to recycling destruction.

There are many advantages to going with upcycling vs. recycling.

We’ve already mentioned that upcycling e-waste means that there is less of a chance of e-waste going overseas.

It also means no energy, resources, pollution, raw material or transportation are needed to recycle assets or manufacture replacement products.

Upcycling creates a huge opportunity to dispose of electronics for money, which means your business or organization can save taxes and fees.

Secondary use also contributes to small and mid-size businesses that benefit from these assets.


Surplus Service is a San Francisco, CA Bay Area-based award-winning e-waste management business that specializes in ITAD, medical recycling, electronic liquidation, reverse logistics and data eradication. As the No. 1 electronic reuse and recycling leader, our goal is to provide eco-friendly solutions that lead to the reuse of electronics rather than just having them recycled or end up in a landfill. To learn more about us, call one of our e-waste recycling specialists at (510) 226-0600 or email us at Info@SurplusService.com.