The speed of technological innovation is rendering electronics obsolete quicker every year, exponentially expanding the global stockpile of electronic scrap or e-waste as consumers trash the old to buy the latest tech.
It may alarm some that, in 2014, 41.8 million metric tons of outdated and broken electronics were tossed globally, only 16 percent of which was recycled. To the entrepreneur, this figure represents the potential to expand markets and ramp up revenue generation through the sale of recycled e-waste and electronic components.
In fact, the 2014 global e-waste market was worth $11.03 billion dollars, according to a market report published by Transparency Market Research. This figure is predicted to triple, reaching $34.32 billion by 2022. Precious metals, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, plastics, and glass are all raw materials that can be extracted from electronic scrap, making e-waste economically enticing.
To get a better idea of whether selling e-waste is the right business decision for you, let’s discuss what e-waste actually is and some of the challenges facing the electronics recycling sector.
What is e-waste?
E-waste is a blanket term used to describe consumer and business electronics that have surpassed their usefulness and must be thrown away. It broadly includes, but is not limited to, computers, televisions, VCRs, stereos, copiers, and fax machines. In addition, e-waste includes handheld devices, such as smartphones and tablets. There really is no clear definition. Some may even categorize microwaves, stoves, air conditioners, and similar appliances as e-waste.
E-waste recycling challenges
Federal and state regulations may act as obstacles to businesses attempting to widen their profit margins through electronic scrap recycling. Because electronic waste is considered hazardous, there are regulations on end-life handling imposed by the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act or a state’s Health and Safety Code laws.
Extraction processes to recover raw materials from electronic scrap and certain raw materials themselves pose significant environmental and health risks when improperly handled. Hazardous materials found in e-waste include lead, mercury, and cadmium. Exposure to these metals can damage the nervous and reproductive systems and cause cancer and kidney damage. Certain extraction processes, such as open burning and washing components in drinking sources, can also release environmental toxins that negatively impact human health.
Do the benefits level the obstacles?
Through safe handling practices and partnerships with businesses who engage in responsible e-waste disposal and sales, the economic and environmental benefits far outweigh the challenges of recycling e-waste. Reusing and recycling old electronics helps reduce pollution, lowers greenhouse gas emissions, conserves energy in electronic manufacturing and extraction of virgin materials, and conserves natural resources by reducing the need to extract raw materials from the earth’s crust.
E-waste may even prove to be a richer source of precious metals than ores extracted in the mining process. For example, 1 ton of computer circuit boards yields greater amounts of gold than 17 tons of gold ores!
If you run a recycling or buyback center, handle large volumes of e-waste, or, perhaps, are making large-scale updates to your technological equipment, contact us! Berg Mill Supply has the industry know-how to help your business offload electronic waste in a financially and environmentally smart way.