With the adoption of technically advanced consumer electronics, environmental and business challenges pertaining to disposition of electronic devices by their end-of-life (EOL) continue to touch new pinnacles. As devices become out-of-date and are swapped out for newer models, the total weight and volume of EOL electronic goods (known as the e-waste) has multiplied at a quick and consistent pace; and in turn, so has the demand of e-scrap recycling.
In 2012, the European electronic recycling industry made a total of approximately $1.3 billion and is estimated to touch $1.79 billion mark by the year 2020. According to the data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency in the year 2009, the United States produced more than 2.37 million tons of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), or just e-waste. Additionally, the United States alone discards over 30 million computers and associated equipment every year, which makes electronic recycling a money-spinning and environmental friendly industry for both businessmen and consumers respectively.
There are several factors that contribute to the figures mentioned above. Topping that list is how the lifespan of modern day electronic devices have become much shorter. An average computer enjoyed a life span of 6-7 years back in 1997. However, in 2005, the normal life span of an average computer system was reduced to 2-3 years. Advancing technology has reduced the life span of mobile devices to a max of 2 years. A large number of consumers purchase the latest available mobile device in their market despite having one in perfect working condition.
Many manufacturers have begun accumulating old cell phones and computers for reuse to combat the terrible habits of those who discard their cell phones too soon. However, manufacturers have to dispose devices that are not capable of being reused into landfills.
Since electronic items are made of hazardous materials that may eventually leak out from the landfills and pollute the environment, over 25 states have come together and formed several laws regulating the disposal as well as recycling of electronic goods for the betterment of the environment.
Benefits of Recycling
Electronic devices generally comprise of certain metals that can be extracted and used for several other purposes through recycling. About one-fourth of the electronic goods were treated through recycling in the year 2009, a number that has risen 22% from the numbers recorded in the year 2006. Apart from helping in conserving natural resources, recycling electronic waste helps in reducing the pollution that would have resulted from extracting the same natural resources from the earth. For instance, recycling about one million computers could help in saving energy that is equivalent to the electricity consumed by over 3650 households in America. In the case of cell phones, every one million mobile devices that is recycled helps in producing 35274 pounds of copper, 75 pounds of gold, 722 pounds of silver, and over 33 pounds of palladium.