A groundbreaking law could help curb landfill waste by bringing a second life into old electronics.
Electronics are a centerpiece to the American lifestyle, from smart phones to laptops and your favorite gaming system, they seem to be everywhere. What happens to last year’s model or electronics that have lived past their prime? Many of these items find their way into trash cans and dumpsters around the country, ending their journey in a city dump or similar. In fact some estimates state that between 40,000 and 161,000 tons of unwanted electronics end up in the trash each year and only 8,000 tons are recycled. This huge discrepancy is what has lawmakers and environmentalists trying to locate an eco-friendly solution to all that waste.
Electronics are full of precious metals like copper, silver and gold as well as recyclable aluminum and plastics. With gold prices on the rise, some have even started to develop methods of mining the gold from old electronics, like computer mother boards. An experiment done by a hardware review website found there to be around $8 to $25 worth of gold on a single computer motherboard, that may seem small but consider the thousands of tons of electronic waste available for the picking. One electronic recycling company in Colorado generates over $1.5M in revenues each year from revitalizing and recycling old electronics. Facts such as this are what led Colorado lawmakers to introduce a bill requiring the recycling of old and outdated electronics.
Standing near bins of old fax machines, computers and televisions, Colorado lawmakers introduced legislature that would ban certain electronic material from going to local landfills. They argue that this would spur the recycling industry, creating jobs and boosting an already booming industry. One of the Senator’s that introduced the bill was quoted as saying “look at all the jobs in these bins.” As the precious metals and other useful materials become scarce, it is arguable that this would have occurred naturally based on market demand, without the need for a law. Part of the journey of taking on a sustainable living is realizing the usefulness of item others would potentially trash.
It takes 95% less energy to recycle aluminum than it does to generate it new and gold is worth over $1,700 per ounce – how could we simply toss these valuable metals into the trash? In the future it is possible to see mining operations in our own landfills, though why wait for it to become that extreme. Go green and recycle your old electronics, it is the right thing to do and who knows, it could soon be the law.
Image: Stuart Miles