Recycling of eWaste critical to Hawaii’s future

Every year consumers purchase new electronics and their unwanted or obsolete computers, laptops, monitors, printers, televisions, cellphones and other gadgets then become eWaste when discarded. Electronics are made up of precious metals, toxic heavy metals, base metals and plastics.

An accredited and certified electronic recycling facility is where eWaste is properly regulated. Hazardous components such batteries, lead and mercury are removed prior to the recycling process and managed. Data security and privacy are assured as all electronics are shredded and/or crushed, then sorted and separated by material. Precious metals, mercury, plastics, base metals such as copper, iron, lead and nickel are sold as commodities to end-users. These end-users then make new electronics, machines, vehicles, appliances and other household goods.

Recycling eWaste keeps toxic heavy metals out of the environment.

Examples of toxic heavy metals found in electronics are beryllium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury and hazardous substances such as flame retardants and Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs). The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that of the 50 million tons of eWaste accumulated each year, only 15-20 percent is recycled, the rest goes directly into landfills or incinerators. Those discarded electronics are responsible for 70 percent of the toxic heavy metals found in landfills.

Recycling eWaste gets plastics out of the waste stream and into the recycling stream, to be made into new products.

Plastics are petroleum based products and do not chemically react or break down readily with other substances. This is why plastic containers can hold food, water, alcohol and household cleaners without dissolving. Plastics do not decay or break down easily in the environment and that makes it all the more imperative to get plastics back into the recycling stream.

Recycling eWaste keeps precious metals out of the landfill.

The term precious metal is defined not just as a rare metal but may also mean a metal in high demand or of high market value. Ease of production always plays a huge role in defining the metals’ worth. Precious metals found in electronics are gold, silver, platinum, palladium, titanium and aluminum.

An immense amount of energy is required to produce aluminum. Recycled aluminum needs only 5 percent of the energy required to make the same amount of new aluminum. There is no difference in strength, lightness or reflectivity between new aluminum and recycled aluminum.

Recycling eWaste prevents environmental pollution, conserves resources and saves valuable landfill space.

In the United States as of 2014, there are 25 states with electronic recycling laws. Verify that your eWaste processor is a certified recycler by visiting www.e-stewards.org. Find free eWaste drop-off locations, throughout the Hawaiian Islands visit www.health.hawaii.gov/ewaste.

Laura Kelly works as a recycling specialist in Hawaii. She can be contacted at kellyfeedback@gmail.com.

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