Worldwide, rapid changes in music and video technology, as well as changes in the media formats used for their distribution, cheap electricity, and to a certain degree, the planned obsolescence of electronic devices, have all contributed to a rapid growth in the surplus of electronic waste (e-waste). It is estimated that 50 million tons of e-waste accumulate each year, sometimes through components going faulty, and rendering devices unrepairable, but also through desire for the latest trending technology in the fastest-developing countries. Processors can become redundant when software is no longer ‘optimised’ to run on them. Display technology has moved from cathode-ray tubes to various types of flat screen. Young people want the latest mobile phones to keep up with their peer groups. Often, electronics which is still in good working order can end up being recycled.
So, what’s the best way to recycle your used electronic gadgets? Well, first of all, look at whether or not the item is in some kind of working order, full or partial. If it’s in this category, someone somewhere will be looking to buy it, regardless of its vintage. In the computing world, people are always looking for legacy components to keep old computers running, to run legacy software, and to play vintage games. There’s an active collectors’ market in vintage mobile phones. These markets can often be tapped into via sites such as eBay, Gumtree and Craigslist, and give you an outlet for extending the useful life of your electronics and keeping them out of landfill or other disposal for at least a few years longer. Even the part-working or totally dead electronics can be moved on for cash in this way, as there’s most often someone out there with the skill to resurrect them, or to modify them for further use. Often, the various elements of a computer can be used in configurations other than that in which they were originally supplied, and this market is driven by reuse of the computers and other items rather than recycling.
In many areas, commercial firms have started operating high-volume buying operations for gadgets such as mobile phones, removing the need for the end-user to advertise the item, liaise with buyers, and arrange payment. Often, these specialised firms provide pre-paid postage options or courier collection, and quick payment after the gadgets are received.
If, having tried these routes to dispose of your gadgets, you still have them, and merely need to dispose of them, they shouldn’t be discarded in your household waste collection. Depending on their type, your gadgets may have toxic metals such as cadmium or lead within them. CRTs are one of the toughest items to recycle, as they contain lead and phosphers, both of which are necessary for the display to work, but hazardous when released.
Many countries have licenced operators who specialise in disposal of waste such as this. Developed countries will have local civic dump sites in many areas, where non-household waste can be deposited in sorted bins, from there to be distributed to specialised disposal firms. Consult with the local council or other body which operates your household waste collection, and investigate what they have in terms of specialist waste disposal. You may have to take your items to the nearest dump site, but it’s surely worth it to ensure that they’re being recycled properly and not merely being dumped into landfill.