Everything you need to know about electronic waste recycling

When you need to dispose of your broken or unwanted electronic items, it can often be unclear what options you have.

Due to the harmful chemicals present in electronic waste, it is crucial that it is disposed of and recycled correctly and safely.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about electronic waste recycling and how to dispose of your electronic waste — whether it’s domestic or commercial.

What is electronic waste?

Electronic waste, also known as ‘e-waste’ or WEEE (waste electrical electronic equipment), refers to any electronic items that an individual or business no longer wants or needs.

Examples of electronic waste include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Mobile phones
  • Laptops
  • Desktop computers
  • Printers and scanners
  • Tablets
  • Televisions and monitors
  • Fridges
  • Freezers
  • Solar panels
  • LED bulbs
  • Vending machines
  • Games consoles
  • Toasters
  • Kettles
  • Microwaves
  • Treadmills
  • Radios
  • Musical instruments

Once these products have reached the end of their life (or sometimes, before then), they become electronic waste.

What causes electronic waste?

The main cause of electronic waste is the increasing number of electronic products that are being manufactured by companies and bought by consumers. Demand is high.

Often, when electrical appliances and products break, and it is cheaper to buy a replacement than it is to fix the original.

In other circumstances, people like to upgrade to the latest model when it is released — such as the latest mobile phone.

In fact, to put the issue of electronic waste in perspective: the world generated 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste in 2019 alone.

Why is electronic waste hazardous?

As mentioned earlier, WEEE contains chemicals.

When electronic waste ends up in landfill sites for an extended period, the chemicals begin to leach into the soil and waterways.

Once the chemicals have polluted an area, the leachate can be hazardous to animals, humans, and the environment as a whole.

In addition, dioxins are toxic, and dioxin-like compounds (DLC) form when electronic parts are melted or burnt. Exposure to DLC can be harmful to our immune systems.

What should I do with my electronic waste?

If you have some electronic waste to dispose of – don’t worry! There are plenty of safe options for you, which are listed below.

Recycle

If you have a suitable vehicle to transport your items in, you can take your electrical waste to a local recycling centre and place it in an electricals bank.

You mustn’t put your unwanted electronic items into your recycling bin at home.

Local councils often offer bulky item collection, which means they can collect fridges, freezers, and cookers from your home. However, due to the coronavirus, the number of time slots available is currently reduced.

When electronic waste is recycled, specialist waste disposal companies take the products to a reprocessing plant.

Once it has arrived there, it is shredded into pieces and magnets remove ferrous metals. Plastics are also sorted into categories using methods such as infrared light.

Recycled e-waste can be turned into items such as mobile phones and games consoles!

Check if it can be fixed

This might seem obvious, but have you tried switching it off and on again?

By checking if your electrical appliance can be fixed, you could save money and help the environment at the same time.

Donate to charity

If you’ve decided it’s time for an upgrade, and the electrical appliance is in a safe working condition, you could donate it to charity.

Although this appliance might not be valuable to you, it could change somebody else’s life for the better.

Exchange your old appliance

Some retailers have created a product exchange service in an attempt to be eco-friendly. This means you can exchange your old item (e.g. your television) for a newer model.

By doing this, the retailer can ensure that the older electrical item is disposed of safely and correctly.

Retailers that take part in this scheme include Samsung and CEX.

Sell your appliance

Again, if the electrical appliance is in a safe and working condition, you could make some extra cash towards your new appliance.

You can sell your item on eBay, Amazon or Facebook Marketplace.

When selling online, you must follow safety measures to ensure you are not in danger and adhere to social distancing rules.