The Complete Guide to
Electronic Waste Recycling

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Electronics is becoming one of the fastest-growing solid waste streams in the world. As devices become more accessible and affordable, more and more of these items go into landfills. Technology aims to make lives easier. There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to live more efficiently, but the detrimental environmental effects of consuming electronics at a rapid rate can no longer be ignored.

What’s worse, electronic waste or e-waste has become more rampant in recent years. In a bid to find solutions for frequently replaced electronics, consumers are looking for measures to safely recycle their old gadgets.



Table of Contents



What is Electronic Waste or E-Waste?

Electronics waste, sometimes called e-waste or e-scrap, is the trash that comes from old electronic devices. There is no absolute definition for what is considered e-waste, but it generally refers to any item with a cord, battery, or plug that is discarded. The most common e-wastes are mobile phones, televisions, personal computers, laptops, tablets, DVDs, air conditioners, and microwave ovens.

Electronic Recycling Facts

  • E-waste is the fastest-growing source of trash in the world. [World Economic Forum]
  • The United States is the biggest contributor of e-waste annually. Americans throw away 9.4 million tons of used electronics each year. [DoSomething.org]
  • In 2016, 44.7 million tons of e-waste was generated worldwide (equivalent to 4,500 full-size Eiffel Towers). [United Nations University]
  • One computer and monitor take about 530 lbs. of fossil fuels, 48 lbs. of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water to make.
  • In 2017, the United Nations estimated that e-waste might contain $67 billion dollars’ worth of precious metals. [World Economic Forum]
  • Only 20% of the world's e-waste is properly handled. [World Economic Forum]
  • The remaining 80% is dumped in landfills, incinerated, or illegally dumped to developing nations. [World Economic Forum]
  • Harvesting e-waste is more viable and profitable than mining earth's ores for new minerals. [World Economic Forum]

Part One: E-Waste, a Modern Dilemma

Modernization is both a boon and a bane. It brings forth technological advances that make life easier and more convenient in the form of internet, smart homes, wearable devices, and entertainment gadgets.

Factors that Contribute to the Dramatic Rise of Electronic Waste Problem

The bad news is that as tech becomes more integrated into daily lives, device usage becomes shorter as people clamor for the latest versions or the newest additions. There are other reasons, too, for the existence of e-waste:

Planned Obsolescence

The big players in the tech industry are shaping how electronics are consumed. In a move called planned obsolescence, some gadgets are purposely designed to function slower or break over time to prompt users to buy new or more. More often they not, tech companies discontinue support for older models to make it more practical to buy the new version instead of maintaining or repairing their old ones.

Shortening Lifespan of Electronics

In the age of constant innovation and upgrades, the lifespan of electronics is getting shorter. One contributing factor is the upgrade cycle, where consumers buy newer versions of products they use in a shorter span. Researchers at the Öko-Institut discovered why in their study.

Researchers were unable to draw conclusive proof that manufacturers are intentionally putting out products with shorter lifespans. However, they found an increase in proportion of consumers replacing defective appliances from 3.5% in 2004 to 8.4% in 2012. As for large household electronics that needed replacement in the first five years of use, they saw an increase from 7% in 2004 to 13% in 2013.

Another factor that contributes to the shortened lifespans of electronics is a preference and lifestyle choice. A chunk of the findings revealed that consumers replace their products for units with better features even though their older electronics were working fine.

Portable Electronics Becoming More of a Necessity

Devices such as smartphones, watches, and tablets used to be defined as luxuries. The portability of these gadgets makes them easy to carry around and use. As technology becomes more integrative and useful in our daily lives, portability has become a necessity.

These gadgets also come out with enhanced components every year. They come with audio and video features with high-performing processors and large storage capacities.

According to Market Watch, the top three regions that hold the largest market share for portable electronics are North America, Asia Pacific, and Europe. Mobile phones take a huge chunk of the portable electronics market share, followed by other devices such as laptops and gaming consoles.

En Masse Consumption of Cheaper Electronics

As the price continues to drop for gadgets, more and more people can afford them. Affordable price points drive higher demand for devices, even in low-income areas. A lower profit margin is a business strategy that increases sales even at lower prices, which fuels the cycle of unnecessarily buying gadgets.

Cheaper electronics also tend to be cheaply made. Customers find it easier to buy new or upgrade rather than repairing them because it is usually cheaper.

Projected Future, E-Waste Trends

Since e-waste is a problem tied to the innovation of technology, it's hard to predict future trends. According to the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA, the devices that will be connected in 2020 are expected to be around 20 to 50 billion, and the amount of e-waste produced in 2021 will be more than 52 million tons.

Additionally, at this rate, the carbon emissions from the production and use of popular electronics will contribute to 14% of total emissions. By 2050, e-waste would be up to 120 million tonnes every year. To satisfy the growing demands, the consumption of raw materials will double by 2060 in all sectors, which will further deplete natural resources over time.

According to the 2014 data, there are more mobile phones than there are people in the whole world. In fact, popular gadgets such as tablets and smartphones are multiplying faster than humans.

However, the study pointed out that the figures don’t mean that every person in the world has a smartphone. In poorer nations, a select few don't have any at all. It means that there are people in first-world countries that are using more than one gadget.

5G: Next-Generation Transmission Technology

In this age of upgrades, one of the most significant improvements that consumers are anticipating is 5G wireless technology. 5G is simply the fifth generation of wireless transmission technology. Its proprietors promise complete wireless digital connectivity for all fixed and unfixed devices, including portable electronics, smart appliances, HDTV, and more. The intention of 5G is to help lower the maintenance and energy consumption of technology while delivering fast gigabit speeds in seconds.

Major telecommunications companies in the US, including Verizon, T-Mobile, Qualcomm, and AT&T, have been rolling out 5G since 2019. The 5G transition plan is in effect globally, and once done, the infrastructure shift will be monumental and more sustainable than 4G.

With this upgrade, hundreds of millions of smartphones will be replaced by 5G-ready devices. More 5G phones are expected to be released in 2020. 4G will still exist alongside 5G to accommodate areas where 5G networks are still being planned and developed.

Part Two: The Global Imperative to Reduce E-Waste

While the world is getting better at recognizing the importance of reusables such as straws and eco-bags, the case for electronic items hasn’t yet been given much attention.

Why Minimizing E-Waste is Crucial

The primary benefit of minimizing e-waste is the conservation of resources. It is crucial to stem the production of too much e-waste to reduce greenhouse gases and to help preserve what's left of Earth's supply of fossil fuels.

What's both surprising and alarming about e-waste is that most of the gadgets discarded in trash bins and recycling centers are in working condition. Most popular devices are a veritable mine of precious metals that include platinum, gold, silver, and cobalt. They also contain high amounts of tin and aluminum.

Throwing these machines away means discarding these valuable materials as well. In fact, a significant amount (7%) of the world's gold may be in e-waste. There is a great demand for these metals for the production of new devices. According to the January 2019 World Economic Forum circular, it is far more ecologically friendly and viable to mine the metals from discarded electronics than to extract more from the earth.

The Two Types of Components in E-waste

There are many reasons why broken devices can't be thrown away like any other waste. One of them is that there are usually hazardous components in them.

Electronics with Hazardous Components

Electronics with Hazardous Components

Electronics contain a variety of precious metals and chemicals that are harmful to humans, animals, and the planet. While there are containers that are structured to house these hazardous components, they can be rendered ineffective once they are cracked or broken.

Examples of hazardous wastes in electronics include sulfur, beryllium oxide, and mercury. E-wastes that should be responsibly disposed of include kitchen equipment like microwave ovens and toasters, laboratory equipment, monitors, televisions, and daily electronics like irons, blenders, copiers, lamps, and flashlights.

Electronics with Harmless Components

Electronics with Harmless Components

There are substances commonly used in electronics that are harmless. These components are generally metals such as copper, gold, zinc, and aluminum. While they are generally okay to dispose of in the trash bin, it is better to recycle them. Some recycling centers may offer incentives depending on the unused electronics you bring in.

The Rocky Start of Proper E-Waste Disposal

Electronic waste was a natural effect of the technological revolution in the 1970s. After discovering the damages it can cause to the environment, several rules and regulations were enacted to take care of e-waste. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was passed in 1976 to make the dumping of electronic scraps illegal in the United States.

In 1989, the Basel Convention was formed to protect international waters from hazardous wastes after public outcry when developing nations discovered toxic wastes being dumped on their shores from abroad. One of the biggest scandals involved a Liberian ship called the Khian Sea that was hired to dispose of 14,000 tons of incinerated e-waste from Philadelphia to New Jersey. Authorities in the latter state refused entry, which made the ship scatter the toxic garbage in the Caribbean and various areas when it went to Southeast Asia.

The binding laws of the Basel Convention still apply to today and are credited for the boom of the recycling industry. The regulatory system aims for all e-waste exports to be responsibly managed and disposed of by reaching agreements with other nations.

Environmental & Health Effects of E-Waste Exposure

The problem when e-wastes end up in landfills is that they are composed of hazardous materials and toxic substances. Electronics contain dangerous elements such as cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), PVC, and polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs). These pose threats to the environment and to humans who scavenge old electronics for valuable materials such as aluminum, iron, titanium, gold, silver, copper, and tin.

Electronics contain dangerous elements, such as:

1. Cadmium Often found in resistors and Nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries Inhalation can generally cause severe respiratory ailments and kidney damage, which can result in renal failure. Ingestion can cause immediate poisoning. Low-level exposure can lead to fragile bones, anemia, brain, and nerve damage.
2. Lead Present in cathode ray tubes in older monitors and television sets, lead-acid batteries, some PVC. Lead dust inhalation causes irreversible damage to the brain, nervous system, and kidneys in children and adults. High lead level exposure may cause unconsciousness, seizures, and death.
3. Mercury Found in fluorescent tubes, barometers, light switches. Inhalation of mercury vapor can cause headaches, tremors, memory loss, and several neurological and behavioral disorders. High-level exposure is harmful to the immune system, brain, kidneys, heart, and the developing nervous system in young children.
4. Americium Found in smoke detectors Exposure may lead to increased cancer risk
5. Sulfur Present in lead-acid batteries It can turn into corrosive sulfuric acid that can cause skin burns, blindness, and severe irritation to the nose and throat.
6. Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) Man-made chemicals added to industrial products such as plastics, electronic equipment, and textiles to make them nonflammable. It is a known carcinogenic. Long-term exposure can lead to developmental effects.
7. Beryllium oxide Used in semiconductors for radio equipment and as filler for thermal grease on CPU heatsinks, gas lasers, and vacuum tubes. Its powdered form is carcinogenic, with particularly increased risk for lung cancer.
8. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) A synthetic resin commonly found in industrial and domestic products and the second most widely used and consumed form of plastic. It contains toxic chemical additives such as lead, cadmium, dioxins, and phthalates that can leak out over time.

Improper e-waste disposal can leak toxic chemicals in the air, soil, and water supply. The long-term damage is irreversible and can eventually cause changes to the ecosystem.

What is Urban Mining?

The e-wastes that are not recycled are illegally shipped to developing nations such as China, Ghana, and India where poor urban miners, both children and adults, extract precious metals through primitive means and without safety equipment. Urban mining is the process of recovering reusable materials from e-waste and metal scraps.

Exposure to e-waste pollution is damaging to human health and the effects of being exposed to improperly disposed e-waste vary. Most of those who are subjected to risks are urban scavengers who retrieve valuable components such as gold and silver from electronics. They primarily resort to primitive mining practices such as open-air burning, which can lead to primary and secondary exposure to heavy metals such as lead.

They burn electronic parts such as circuit boards or soak microchips in acid to crudely extract copper, silver, and gold. The worthless parts are dumped into landfills with hazardous consequences. The toxic metals often get mixed in the soil and water, and the harmful emissions from the burned devices lower the area's air quality. The combustion also releases particulates that can damage the lungs and the heart. Their poor working conditions are exacerbated by little to no sanitation and poverty.

These workers from the informal sectors are often unaware of the health risks associated with improperly handling e-waste. Despite their daily toil, most of them only earn less than two dollars a day for their efforts.

Additional Information: One of the biggest e-waste dumping grounds in the world is in Guiyu, China. Residents are at high risk of acquiring lead poisoning, neurological problems, respiratory ailments, and bone problems. In fact, 80% of the children residing in the area have lung diseases.

According to researchers, these toxic chemicals do not biodegrade and will continue to pose a threat for a long time in the area and the surrounding region. The toxic particles disperse in the air due to rampant open-air burning, which affects the 45 million people living in the nearby Pearl River Delta Region through its proliferation in the soil, which is used to grow crops, which are then turned to food.

The Case for Recycling Electronics

Large quantities of raw materials are needed to make new electronics, and the earth is rapidly running out of them. Fortunately, as the awareness of the negative effects of waste is spreading, industries are pushing for greener solutions to obtain such resources, and one of them is by wisely utilizing what already exists.

In the context of e-waste, the amount of precious metals from electronics is exponentially larger than that which is mined from the ground. More specifically, there are 40 to 50 times the amount of gold and other metals in electronics than in ores from the earth.

Political scientist, Ruediger Kuehr, who is also a co-founder of the "Solving the E-Waste Problem" (StEP) initiative, found that over $21 billion dollars is spent on the production of electronic goods yearly. It takes 320 tons of gold and more than 7,500 tons of silver to make these devices. However, only 15 percent of them are recovered.

Kuehr and his colleagues believe that recycling is the solution because the rapid demand for electronic goods and short product cycles are increasing. Obviously, there is a lot of money to be made by recycling e-waste. The sad fact is that most of it comes from backyard recycling from wastes that were shipped from developed to developing nations.

How is Electronic Waste Managed

The aim of managing electronic waste is to prevent a portion of it from ending up in landfills. Reusing, reducing, and recycling electronics are among the most common ways of handling them.

Repaired & Reused

Repaired & Reused

Reusing electronics is an ideal way to get the most out of them. Existing items can be gifted or donated so that new owners can use them. Older, working laptops can be utilized by students, along with cell phones, tablets, and smartwatches. Nonprofit organizations, schools, community centers, and charitable organizations can certainly benefit from cast-off electronics as well.

Devices with minor defects can often be repaired. These refurbished or restored gadgets are sold at lower prices or given away. Repair jobs also provide skilled labor opportunities in developing nations.

Reduced

Reduced

One of the best ways to prevent e-waste is not making any in the first place. Not buying unnecessary gadgets and electrical equipment saves you money and it helps the environment. Think first before buying upgrades and don't replace the ones you already have before making sure you know how to dispose of them either through donation or recycling safely.

Thrown Into Landfills

Thrown Into Landfills

Around 80 to 85% of the twenty to fifty million metric tons of e-waste is thrown into landfills every year, globally. As was mentioned earlier, electronic items that contain precious metals like gold and silver are scavenged by urban miners to make a living. The hazardous ways in which they extract the raw materials damaging to their health and to the environment.

Incinerated

Incinerated

Extracting metals from old gadgets and other items is laborious so incineration is often the easiest solution. Urban miners often have mountains of automobile tires or hundreds of pounds of insulated copper wires collected, so burning them speeds up the extraction process. However, combustion often produces increased levels of carbon monoxide and other toxic substances that affect air quality and human health.

Recycled

Recycled

There are companies that offer to take back outdated technology for free. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a list of companies that take back devices to be recycled. Some organizations are equipped with machines that help mine precious parts that they can renew or reuse. There are specialty retailers, recycling facilities, and commercial services that can handle bulk recycling, but it depends on what state you're in.

Like any garbage, e-waste should be disposed of responsibly. There are only twenty-five US states that have legislation regarding electronics recycling while there are seventeen US states that have e-waste disposal ban laws.

Batteries - Know Your E-Waste

Not all e-waste is equal, and there are devices with specific components that are more hazardous than others. Batteries that are composed of alkaline are recyclable, while mercury-based batteries should be handled with care. However, battery recycling is more common nowadays and there may be services available in your community.

The Importance of Electronics Recycling

Old electronic devices are even more likely to contain hazardous substances. When they are improperly disposed of, these toxins can leak out and pollute the air, water, and soil. As the trends for technology and electronics steer to more upgrades in the future, the demand for more devices increases, which will rapidly deplete Earth's already declining stores of natural resources.

The end goal of electronics recycling is to decrease, and in the long run, prevent e-waste from ending up in landfills. And finally, old devices are a veritable mine of raw materials that can be mined and repurposed to make new gadgets.

What is BAN?

Basel Action Network or BAN is a trusted figure and champion of global environmental health. Their namesake comes from the 1989 United Nations Basel Convention, which moderates the disposal of e-waste, plastic pollution, and end-of-life ships among countries. It is an organization that promotes sustainability and prevents pollution from entering the shores of developing nations.

What is an e-Stewards Certification?

An e-Stewards Certification is a corporate certification that confers responsible companies and organizations with a commitment to ethical recycling. Companies that qualify are asset recovery companies, refiners, processors, and electronics recyclers that offer recycling, upgrading, repair, and refurbishment of electronics.

The e-Stewards certification can be obtained by any organization or entity from around the world. It is also recognized and supported by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Certified e-Stewards must uphold the best practices for recycling, securing data, ethical labor, and management of all toxic materials. All toxic e-waste exports should be responsibly and legally handled.

What is an R2 Certification?

Responsible recycling or R2 is a leading certification for electronics recyclers in the industry. It is a standard intended for companies and those who wish to be R2 certified must ensure to have a recycling process that follows stringent health and safety guidelines that handle e-waste recycling responsibly.

What is the Basel Convention?

The Basel Convention was adopted in response to the global outcry after discovering mountains of toxic waste in Africa and other developing countries. The unfair "toxic trade" was imported from abroad. The Convention was adopted on March 22, 1989, and enacted in 1992.

The heart of the Basel Convention is to protect humans and the planet from hazardous wastes. Its principal aims are to regulate the movement of hazardous waste and its proper disposal among developed and less developed countries.

How Electronic Recycling Works

Chart showing How Electronic Recycling Works

Recycling electronics means safely disposing of them to ensure that they can either be repaired or reused. Proper disposal is crucial because they contain toxic substances. There are multiple ways you can recycle old gadgets. You can donate them back to companies so they can recycle them for you or take them to third-party recyclers.

Electronic Recycling Process

The recycling process varies as there are different kinds of electronic devices. The metals and other substances suitable for recovery and the technologies used to reclaim them also make a difference.

The process starts with the collection and transportation of electronics to the recycling area. The devices are segregated by type. The process of manual disassembly begins and materials are categorized once again.

Other items that cannot be dismantled are shredded to separate salvageable materials from the plastics. Some centers use lasers to automatically sort solids like metals and non-metals. Optical sorting often uses cameras with the lasers to recognize an object's color, size, shape, chemical composition, and structural properties so the inspection is more accurate than manual sorting.

Some centers use strong magnets to pick up magnetic materials like steel and iron from other products. Other valuable non-metallic and metallic components such as aluminum, brass, and copper are sorted through as well. Down the line, plastic and glass are separated through water separation.

What Happens to the Retrieved Components?

  • Metal - scrap metals are sold to recyclers as raw materials for reuse.
  • Plastic - collected plastic materials are sent to organizations that use them to make various plastic products such as plastic trays and insulators.
  • Glass - there are two types of glass from e-waste; leaded glass that come from Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) and non-leaded glass. The former undergoes a special process so that it can be reused to make new screens.
  • Hard Drives - they are melted down into aluminum ingots and reused in automotive. Its rare-earth magnets are collected and repurposed for other applications.
  • Printed Circuit Boards - they go to accredited companies that can extract metals such as palladium, tin, gold, and copper, where they are smelted and reused for other purposes.

Formal E-Recycling vs. Informal E-Recycling

The major differences between formal and informal e-recycling centers are the first one is legal and adheres to health and safety standards. A formal e-waste recycling facility should be certified by either of the accredited certification standards: Responsible Recycling (R2) Standard for Electronics Recyclers or e-Stewards Standard for Responsible Recycling and Reuse of Electronic Equipment (e-Stewards).

Both programs are beneficial to centers and their workers because they adhere to the best e-waste management practices. They also assess worker health, environment, and safety of all those involved in e-waste recycling. There are rigorous standards in place to obtain the certifications.

R2 Standard

Responsible Recycling or R2 is the standard for responsible recycling among electronics recyclers. The non-profit organization, Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI) and its partners house the R2 Standard to emphasize the importance of reusing, repairing, and recycling electronic products. R2 Certification involves many steps:

  1. Signup for R2 Webinar
  2. Complete License Application
  3. Choose a SERI-approved certifying body for transparency
  4. Facility Review (Gap Analysis, Initial Internal Audit, Enlist a Consultant)
  5. Corrective Action
  6. Implementation Audit
  7. Certification

e-Stewards Certification

Being an e-Steward means joining hundreds of businesses, organizations, institutions, government agencies, and individuals in responsible e-recycling. The e-Stewards Standard means stopping the exportation of illegal e-waste to developing nations and upholding the global standard of e-waste reusing and recycling practices. There are several steps to being e-Stewards certified for recyclers:

  1. Download e-Stewards Standard policies and guidelines
  2. Setup ISO 14001 Environmental Management System (EMS) system
  3. Hire accredited certifying bodies
  4. Schedule audits
  5. Fill Revenue Verification Form (RVF)
  6. Pay one-time initiation fee
  7. Fill out the company information form
  8. Complete all audits
  9. Pay all fees

Going to formal e-recycling centers is expensive, and that is one of the reasons for the rise of informal e-recycling. Informal e-recycling makes use of urban miners who resort to primitive methods. This exploitative business is cost-efficient because there are no regulations in place for dismantling methods and low salaries of workers, who are often immigrants.

Formal vs. Informal E-Recycling Highlights

Formal Informal
Legal Illegal
Strict Certification Processes Unlicensed, unregulated
Has advanced separation machines/technologies Crude dismantling methods using bare hands, incineration, and acid baths
Adhere to health and safety standards No health and safety standards of any kind in place; no protective equipment
Use pollution control technologies Using primitive methods lead to leaking toxic wastes in the environment
Requires wiping devices of data No data wiping policies can result in a breach of data privacy
Expensive Cost-efficient at the cost of exploiting workers

Part Three: Ways to Recycle Electronic Waste

With more and more electronics being bought, used, and discarded every year, it is important to know how to recycle them. Fortunately, there is a trending awareness about e-waste and the harm it causes to humans, animals, and the planet. However, there is a lack of information on how an individual can recycle their own e-scraps.

Basic Electronic Recycling Tips

  • Never throw old electronics in the trash
  • Find a certified e-waste recycler (e-Stewards certified) or an R2 recycler; consolidators can also assist in properly sending e-waste to certified recyclers
  • Check for local e-waste recycling events or pickup
  • Send back old electronics to manufacturers that accept and recycle them
  • Properly pack leaking items in a large container
  • When handling leaking electronics, always wear gloves to handle or clean them
  • Broken glass should be separated in bags or boxes
  • Wipe data from computers, tablets, phones, and smart gadgets to protect personal information or find a secure data destruction service provider (NAID AAA Certified entities)

How to Keep Your Data Secure Before Recycling Electronics

All tech used in daily life will break down or be replaced inevitably. These gadgets record everything that it is used for. Your old tech devices will contain files like images, saved emails, conversation histories, documents, and even access or passwords to websites, social media, and emails. Before you toss, donate, or recycle your computer or smartphone, make it a habit to wipe the old data stored on it.

Even if you think there are no sensitive data in old gadgets because the device was barely used, it is best to check first. Before permanently deleting anything, make sure to back up your data and secure it.

Deleting files is simply not enough for devices like hard drives and laptops because there are programs that can retrieve deleted data. For your peace of mind, use a data erasing program to sanitize old tech properly. For sensitive files, you can encrypt them first before deleting them. This ensures that even if there is a possibility of retrieving the files, the data won't be read because it can't be decrypted.

For smartphones, delete all the information you can and then reset it to the factory setting to ensure that it is wiped clean. SIM cards should also be cut in half. If you would rather not deal with erasing everything from your devices, you can hire an expert to do it for you.

Why NAID AAA Certified Service Providers are the Best for Data Destruction & Personal Information Protection

The National Association of Information Destruction or NAID is an international association dedicated to upholding the highest standards for proper paper and electronic data disposal. The NAID protects the interests of consumers and refines and enforces the processes of information destruction service providers worldwide.

Any organization or entity with a NAID AAA certification means that they have met the stringent qualifications for proper information destruction. There are over 20 areas of operational and security requirements including policies, procedures, transport, video surveillance, and employee screening, to name a few. These are in place to ensure confidential information is handled securely and e-waste is disposed of responsibly.

You can be confident handling your old gadgets to a NAID AAA certified service provider because your data is protected using the best practices. Obtaining a NAID AAA certification is a process and includes submission of application, initial audits, compliance verification, completing all final audits.

There are more than 900 NAID AAA Certified locations on five continents across the world. The IRS Publication 1075 (2016) places value on a NAID AAA Certification. Everyone can be a member of NAID, but it does not mean they are AAA certified. If they want to obtain the AAA certification, they have to comply with all the standards. To ensure that a company is AAA certified, ask for verification or check out this directory.

Recycling Events & Initiatives in 2020

Items that can be recycled can go on to live useful second lives through recycling events and other similar initiatives. There are many uses for recycled plastics, bottles, and clothes. Check out some recycling events & initiatives in the US in 2020 below.

Event Name Event Type Date Location
CES 2020 Conference / Seminar January 6 - 9, 2020 Las Vegas, Nevada
Richmond Heights, MO Electronics Recycling Event — MRC Electronics Recycling Electronics Recycling Event January 11, 2020 Richmond Heights, Missouri
Millstadt, IL Electronics Recycling Event — MRC Electronics Recycling Electronics Recycling Event January 11, 2020 Millstadt, Illinois
E-Waste Recycling Event: Queens Botanical Garden Electronics Recycling Event January 12, 2020 Flushing, New York
E-Waste Recycling Event: Church of the Holy Name of Jesus Electronics Recycling Event January 18, 2020 New York, New York
Winter E-Waste Drive — Broadway Green Alliance Electronics Recycling Event January 22, 2020 New York, New York
Basel III, IV and Beyond - Effective Risk Data Management and Reporting Workshops / Training Courses January 23 - 24, 2020 Newark, New Jersey
Electronic Recycling Collection Electronics Recycling Event January 25, 2020 Watertown, Massachusetts
International Conference on Waste Recycling Conference January 30 - 31, 2020 New York, New York
Parkville, MO Electronics Recycling Event Electronics Recycling Event February 1, 2020 Kansas City, Missouri
Waste Not Want Not - Art Show by Louis Sarowsky Art Show February 1, 2020 Brooklyn, New York
International Biomass Conference & Expo Conference, Exhibition February 3 - 5, 2020 Nashville, Tennessee
REACH and RoHS Compliance: Gain a Deeper Understanding Conference / Seminar February 6 – 7, 2020 San Diego, California
The Plastics Recycling Conference and Trade Show Conference / Seminar February 17 – 19, 2020 Nashville. Tennessee
Global Waste Management Symposium 2020 Conference / Seminar February 23 - 26, 2020 Indian Wells, California
Wisconsin Integrated Resource Management Conference Conference, Exhibition February 26 - 28, 2020 Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Sustainability in Packaging 2020 Conference / Seminar March 11 – 13, 2020 Chicago, Illinois
The 33rd Southeast Recycling Conference & Trade Show (SERC) Conference / Seminar March 15 - 18, 2020 Destin, Florida
Lower East Side E-Waste Warehouse Tour with Circular City Week Open House / Exhibition March 18, 2020 Brooklyn, New York
The 35th International Conference on Solid Waste Technology and Management Conference / Seminar March 22 - 25, 2020 Annapolis, Maryland
SWANApalooza 2020 Conference / Exhibition March 23 - 26, 2020 Atlanta, Georgia
2020 Electronic Waste Collection Event Quarterly E-waste Collection Program
January 11, 2020
April 4, 2020
July 11, 2020
October 3, 2020
Madison County, New York
Frontenac, MO Electronics Recycling Event — MRC Electronics Recycling Electronics Recycling Event April 18, 2020 Frontenac, Missouri
International Conference on Electronic Waste Management and Recycling Process Conference April 23 - 24, 2020 Boston, Massachusetts
New York, New York
ISRI 2020 Convention and Exposition Conference / Exhibition April 27 - 30, 2020 Los Angeles, California
WasteExpo 2020 Trade Show / Exhibition May 4 - 7, 2020 New Orleans, Louisiana
Manchester, MO Electronics Recycling Event — MRC Electronics Recycling Electronics Recycling Event May 16, 2020 Manchester, Missouri
Webster Groves, MO Electronics Recycling Event — MRC Electronics Recycling Electronics Recycling Event June 27, 2020 St. Louis, Missouri
International Conference on E-Waste Management and Recycling Technologies Conference August 10 - 11, 2020 New York, New York
PWX Expo - 2020 Trade Show / Exhibition August 30, 2020 - September 2, 2020 New Orleans, Louisiana
E-Scrap Conference and Trade Show Conference / Trade Show October 26 - 28, 2020 New Orleans, Louisiana
E-Scrap Conference & Exhibition Conference October 26 - 28, 2020 New Orleans
Electronics Reuse Conference Conference November 15, 2020 Nashville, Tennessee

E-Waste Drop-off Locations in the US

There are recycling and waste management centers that accept e-waste drop-offs.

World Map of Recyclers

Donate Preloved Electronics

For electronics that are still in working condition, you can donate them.

Old Tech You Can Donate:

  • Cellphones
  • Tablets
  • Laptops
  • Desktops
  • Activity Trackers
  • Video Game Consoles
  • Flash Drives, Cords, Cables

Non-Profit Organizations / Programs That Accept Donated Electronics in the US

Let Tech Companies Recycle For You

Here are companies that recycle their own products:

  • Acer
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Asus
  • Best Buy
  • Brother
  • Canon
  • Coby
  • Dell
  • Epson
  • Funai
  • Gateway
  • Goldstar
  • Hitachi
  • HP
  • JVC
  • Kodak
  • Lenovo
  • Lexmark
  • LG
  • Microsoft
  • Mitsubishi
  • Panasonic
  • Philips
  • Samsung
  • Sansui
  • Sanyo
  • Sharp
  • Sony
  • Sprint
  • Staples
  • Target
  • TCL
  • Toshiba
  • VIZIO
  • Xerox
  • Zenith

Take Old Tech & Recyclables to Recyclers

List of e-Stewards Certified Recycling Companies in the US

  • 4th Bin (New York, NY)
  • Abington Reldan Metals (Fairless Hills, PA)
  • AnythingIT, Inc. (North Bergen, NJ)
  • Apto Solutions (Atlanta, GA., Milpitas, CA., Austin, TX)
  • Blue Star Recyclers (Colorado Springs, CO., Denver, CO., Boulder, CO)
  • Capitol Asset Recovery, Inc. (Lanham, MD)
  • Cascade Asset Management (Madison, WI, Indianapolis, IN)
  • CEAR, Inc (Mather, CA)
  • Comprenew (Grand Rapids, MI)
  • Data Killers (Hyattsville, MD)
  • Dynamic Lifecycle Innovations (Onalaska, WI)
  • ECOvanta LLC (Philadelphia, PA)
  • e-Cycle LLC (Hilliard, OH)
  • EcycleTek/TekR2 (Coppell, TX)
  • eForce Compliance Selectronics (Philadelphia, PA)
  • eGreen-IT Solutions (Phoenix, AZ)
  • Electronic Recyclers International (ERI) (Fresno, CA., Sumner, WA., Badin, NC., Aurora, CO., Flower Mound, TX., Fresno, CA., Holliston, MA., Plainfield, IN)
  • eLoop (Export, PA)
  • eLoop dba eCentral (State College, PA)
  • EPC, Inc. (Saint Charles, MO., Columbia, SC., Las Vegas, NV., North Kansas City, MO., Bethlehem, PA., Stafford, TX., Wright City, MO)
  • e-Recycling of California (Paramount, CA., Hayward, CA., Irvine, CA)
  • Esco Processing and Recycling LLC (Rogers, AR)
  • Friendly Earth (Seattle, WA)
  • Global Ewaste Solutions, Inc – USA (Plymouth, MN)
  • I.T. Refresh (A Division of Onsite Electronics) (Fort Collins, CO)
  • Ingram Micro ITAD (Formerly: CloudBlue) (Chandler, AZ., Indianapolis, IN., Pine Brook, NJ)
  • JVS Environmental (Friedens, PA)
  • Kuusakoski US, LLC (Plainfield, IL)
  • Liquid Technology, Inc. (Brooklyn, NY)
  • N&S International Distributors (NSID) (Miami, FL)
  • N.F. Smith & Associates, L.P. (Houston, TX)
  • Natural Evolution, Inc. (Tulsa, OK)
  • Newport Computer Services dba: NCS Global (Rochester, NH)
  • Onsite Electronics Recycling (Stockton, CA)
  • PowerHouse Recycling, Inc. (Salisbury, NC)
  • Recycle Boise, LLC (Boise, ID)
  • RSR Partners, LLC dba Regency Technologies (Durham, NC)
  • Sage Sustainable Electronics. LLC (Columbus, OH., Sparks, NV., Jessup, MD)
  • SEAM: Secure Enterprise Asset Management (Sioux Falls, SD)
  • ServerMonkey (Houston, TX)
  • Sipi Asset Recovery (Formerly: Belmont Technology Remarketing) (Hayward, CA, Elk Grove Village, IL)
  • Tech-Resale.com (Cedar City, UT)
  • Turtle Wings (Hyattsville, MD)
  • Universal Recycling Technologies (URT) (Janesville, WI., Clackamas, OR, Dover, NH, Fort Worth, TX, Janesville, WI)
  • USMe, LLC dba BLH Computers (Springfield, IL)
  • Vintage Tech, LLC (Langhorne, PA, Plainfield, IL)
  • Wisetek Solutions Inc. (Hyattsville, MD, Beltsville, MD, Milford, MD, Sacramento, CA, Austin, TX)

Send Old Tech to NAID AAA Certified Companies [i-Sigma]

  • Access CIG, LLC (Birmingham, AL)
  • Access CIG, LLC (Montgomery, AL)
  • Access CIG, LLC (Portland, OR)
  • AERC Recycling Solutions (Allentown, PA)
  • American Document Securities (Carrollton, GA)
  • AMS Store and Shred LLC (Lake In The Hills, IL)
  • Arizona Product Destruction, Inc. (Phoenix, AZ)
  • Ark-La-Tex Shredding Co., Inc. (Tyler, TX)
  • Assured Document Destruction (Phoenix, AZ)
  • ATI SecureDocs (Houston, TX)
  • Central Business Systems (Jamestown, ND)
  • Confidential On-Site Paper Shredding (COPS) (Normal, IL)
  • Corodata Shredding (Corona, CA)
  • DataSafe (Portland, OR)
  • Document Shredding & Storage (Lubbock, TX)
  • e-End (Frederick, MD)
  • ERI (Sumner, WA)
  • EWASTE+ (Victor, NY)
  • Federal Records Management and Shredding (Fort Wayne, IN)
  • File Shred, LLC (Glastonbury, CT)
  • Gateway Products Recycling, Inc. / Gateway Confidential (Cleveland, OH)
  • Georgia Secure Shred (Rome, GA)
  • Gone For Good Shredding (Little Rock, AR)
  • Goodwill Data SHIELD (Greendale, WI)
  • Goodwill Industries of East Texas (Tyler, TX)
  • Goodwill Industries of Northwest Texas (Amarillo, TX)
  • Graham County Rehabilitation Center (Safford, AZ)
  • H & R Shredding, Inc. (Staunton, VA)
  • Hanna Paper Recycling Inc. - Midwest (Cincinnati, Ohio)
  • Hanna Paper Recycling, Inc. (Wallingford, CT)
  • Harter's C-Cure-It Data Destruction (La Crosse, WI)
  • Heartland Shredding (Guernsey, IA)
  • IDSAutoshred (Passaic, NJ)
  • Iron Mountain Information Management (Atlanta, GA)
  • Iron Mountain Information Management (Ft. Wayne, IN)
  • Iron Mountain Information Management (Gainesville, FL)
  • Iron Mountain Information Management (Indianapolis, IN)
  • Iron Mountain Information Management (Kansas City, MO)
  • Iron Mountain Information Management (Richmond, VA)
  • Iron Mountain Information Management (Sarasota, FL)
  • Iron Mountain Information Management (Syracuse, NY)
  • Iron Mountain Information Management (Tulsa, OK)
  • Iron Mountain Information Management (West Salem, WI)
  • Lewis Clark Recyclers, Inc. (Lewiston, ID)
  • Lifespan International Inc. (Hamburg, NY)
  • Liquid Technology (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Lone Star Shredding & Document Storage (Div of 3GS, LLC) (Mercedes, TX)
  • Michigan Confidential Document Destruction (Alpena, MI)
  • Mountain High Shredding, Inc. (Mishawaka, IN)
  • Nebraska Recycles (Lincoln, NE)
  • Northeast Data Destruction, LLC (Mansfield, MA)
  • PACE Enterprises of West Virginia, Inc. (Westover, WV)
  • PCLiquidations (Jacksonville, FL)
  • PCs for People (Saint Paul, MN)
  • Pellitteri Data Destruction (Monona, WI)
  • PROSHRED of Georgia (Norcross, GA)
  • PROSHRED Richmond (Richmond, VA)
  • Ray's Trash Service, Inc. (Clayton, IN)
  • REACH Shredding (Juneau, AK)
  • Reclamere, Inc. (Tyrone, PA)
  • Royal Shredding (Alpharetta, GA)
  • Safeguard Shredding, LLC (Ft. Myers, FL)
  • Secure Records Management Systems (Sanford, ME)
  • Shred City (Shingle Springs, CA)
  • Shred Right (a Rohn Industries Co.) (St. Paul, MN)
  • Shred-it - Alabama, a Stericycle, Inc. Solution (Mobile, AL)
  • Shred-it - Aston, a Stericycle, Inc. Solution (Trainer, PA)
  • Shred-it - Charlotte, a Stericycle, Inc. Solution (Charlotte, NC)
  • Shred-it - Columbus, a Stericycle, Inc. Solution (Columbus, GA)
  • Shred-it - Myrtle Beach, a Stericycle, Inc. Solution (Myrtle Beach, SC)
  • Shred-it - Seattle, a Stericycle, Inc. Solution (Kent, WA)
  • Shred-it - St. Louis East, a Stericycle, Inc. Solution (Hazelwood, MO)
  • Shred-it - Tampa, a Stericycle, Inc. Solution (Tampa, FL)
  • Shred-it - Waterloo, a Stericycle, Inc. Solution (Waterloo, IA)
  • ShredSmart, Inc. (Prospect, CT)
  • Stevens & Stevens Business Records Management (Clearwater, FL)
  • The Shred Authority (Alsip, IL)
  • Underground Vaults & Storage, Inc. (Wichita, KS)
  • United Ability dba Gone for Good (Birmingham, AL)
  • Veteran Shredding (Burnsville, MN)
  • VRC Companies, LLC - Dallas (Richland Hills, TX)
  • WACOSA (Waite Park, MN)
  • William B. Meyer Inc. (Bedford Hills, NY)

Preventative Solutions to the E-Waste Problem

Moving forward, we can all find solutions to minimize the effects of living a technologically-advanced, digitally-enabled lifestyle. One of the most sustainable ways to deter the growth of e-waste is to avoid or cut back on making more. We can all do our part but some of the responsibility lies with developers, politicians, and communities. As a final note, here’s what a summary of what we can all do to play a role in reducing e-waste in the decades to come, and beyond:

Repair Things

A good amount of electronics that are thrown away only have a bit of damage to them. If they can be salvaged by repairing, then it will help increase their longevity. Opting to repair electronics will also pave the way for repair jobs which, in turn, will help livelihoods.

Safely Reuse Viable Electronics

Most electronics that are discarded are still viable for reuse. There are companies like PC Liquidations that acquire excess electronics then safely and securely wipe all data to reuse it again.

Design Sustainable Products

When electronics last longer, the need to replace them more often is diminished. When there is less production, there is less pollution.

Enforcing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

This is a policy that makes manufacturers accountable for their products. They are given the financial and physical responsibility of properly disposing of post-consumer goods. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) hopes that this policy will push producers to curb production volume and upgrade product design to make disposal efficient and convenient.

Open More Accessible Recycling Centers

One of the best ways to deter old electronics from going straight to landfills is for communities to have accessible recycling centers. Services such as old tech pickup and drop-offs can mean a difference for safe e-waste recycling.

References ▼

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