How does e-recycling actually work?

The nuts and bolts of giving e-scrap a second life.

We all understand the idea that recycling is a good idea, and we’ve even seen the bins where you can recycle old phones or drop off rechargeable batteries for recycling. The importance of it isn’t lost on us, but how exactly does this happen?

Before we get into the process of turning a laptop into a park bench, we should mention that smart recycling starts with re-use. So much of the hardware the people discard every day is still usable, and most reputable ITAD companies are able to clean and re-sell that hardware so it can have a second life. Maybe it goes to a school or non-profit, or maybe it goes right back to work in the market. Either way, this means that one  more device stays out of the landfill, and that’s a good start!

If a device can’t be reused, then it’s on to the recycler. The first step is for dangerous elements to be removed. CRT monitors have almost five pounds of lead just behind the glass, and rechargeable batteries usually contain heavy elements that would add toxicity to the ground if you just threw them away. These difficult components are manually removed so they can be recycled individually. Everything else, and we do mean everything else, goes into the shredder.

Shredding seems like it’s making more of a mess, but it actually makes everything easier to sort. Giant shredding machines can chew up anything from an iPod to a flat-panel TV and spit out tech-based mulch. Old-school sorting approaches start the process. Magnets help to remove ferrous materials like iron and steel, while more mechanical sorting separates copper, ceramics, and circuit boards. Once the metals are separated from the plastics, they’re bundled up in bulk and shipped off to another specialized recycler.

From here, heat does a lot of the work. Smelters melt down the metal components so they can be separated, and a heat-based process is also used to convert the chopped-up plastic into a more useable form. Once all the materials are divided they can be sold on the open market to manufacturers for use in a variety of new products.

The benefits to recycling are numerous. Reducing mining of heavy metals is a plus, and you’re also keeping toxic materials from getting tossed into a landfill and leaching into the soil. Recycling is also a massive industry that employs thousands of people all around the globe. While you’re saving the planet and driving the economy, you might even be able to make a few dollars in the process by selling off your used hardware.

There’s a whole world of options out there when it comes to dealing with old hardware, and CDR Global is familiar with all of them. If you’re wondering what can be done with your obsolete equipment, give CDR Global a call and we’ll steer you in the direction that’s best for your situation.


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