The rapid advancement of technology has been a blessing and a curse to consumers. A blessing because our electronic equipment is constantly being improved to make our lives and our jobs easier. A curse because many electronic devices often end up in landfills well before their useful lifespan is over.
To this day, 60%-80% of the e-waste that the U.S. produces ends up being shipped overseas to developing countries like China, India and Nigeria where they can process e-waste at up to 10 times cheaper than in the United States.
This is why governments all across the world have been encouraging the recycling of electronic waste. However, not all recyclers process e-waste the same way.
How the E-Waste Recycling Process Usually Works
In 2003, for example, California became one of the first states to not only encourage but to fund recycling with a consumer fee on many of the electronics products consumers purchased. The effort was well guided and provided a monetary incentive for manufacturers and consumers to recycle. Many local e-waste management companies like Surplus Service were established to collect e-waste and dispose of it properly.
Although consumers and manufacturers pay these recycle fees, the biggest bounty goes to recycling companies, which are paid by the pound for every electronic item they recycle. When e-waste is brought to these big recyclers, all the equipment is usually put on a big conveyor belt, sorted out by hand and—working or not—ground into raw materials like glass, plastic and metal.
This long process obviously has its benefits. But it is very labor-intensive and, if companies want e-waste recycling done cheaply, they often look to do it in countries where the health and safety standards are low.
Could Reuse be Safer for the Environment?
Reuse is another way to process e-waste, and this is the way that it is done at Surplus Service. Reuse is all about extending a product’s useful life for as long as possible. We coined the term UpcyclIT® to describe this process, and it is helping to create more sustainability and reduce the carbon footprint of many companies.
Take, for example, a nuclear medicine machine. A recycler could break down the equipment—which is very expensive—and shred the scrap to harvest some of the precious raw materials inside the machine. But that doesn’t take into consideration the fact that when a healthcare facility gets a big piece of equipment like a nuclear machine, they have to build an entire room around that equipment—a costly process.
It would be much more efficient for the healthcare facility and the recycler to refurbish the machine, sell it at a reduced price and then the facility could harvest the working parts they need on their own.
Why Reuse Seems Like the Best Option
While there are clearly benefits to both methods of e-waste recycling, reuse seems like the simplest and most cost-efficient way to help the environment. At Surplus Service, we have created a business model that allows us to “upcycle” electronic equipment until the end of their lifecycle. Many e-waste recycling companies like ours provide recycling options for surplus electronics as well, but recycling should only be used at a truly end-of-life point.
By diverting these used electronics to the secondary market where they can still be used, businesses and organizations can dramatically improve their bottom line and e-recyclers can dramatically elongate the life of a piece of electronic equipment.
Also, since many Facility, EH&S and IT managers are measured by how much waste they reduce, reusing electronics enables managers to highlight their Zero Waste and sustainability efforts to their organizations, partners, clients and regulators. This way, everyone is a winner.
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.