What Parts of Electronics Are Recyclable?
By Scott Cornell
According to a report from the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, some 3.16 million tons of electronic waste, or e-waste, was generated in the United States in 2008, only 14 percent of which was recycled. E-waste has the potential to be very damaging: the lead, mercury, and flame retardants used to manufacture electronic components leach as the products sit in landfills, which pollutes the environment. However, many cities and municipalities are stepping up their recycling of electronics to recover the many components from everyday appliances and gadgets that are recyclable.
As more people purchase flat-screen, high-definition TVs, the old cathode-ray tube (CRT) TV is becoming less prevalent. Consumers upgrading their PCs are also replacing their CRT displays. CRTs are almost entirely recyclable. Many of the CRT components are re-manufactured into new CRTs, which prevent the lead in such appliances from damaging the environment when they are tossed in landfills. CRT parts that cannot be reused in new monitors may be used to make car batteries. If a CRT is beyond saving, its glass screen may be reused in a new CRT screen.
It's estimated that up to 80 percent of the parts found in mobile phones are recyclable, including many of their metals and plastics, which can be melted and reused in moldings. Another important recyclable component of mobile phones is silver. Such cell-phone components as LCD screens, lenses, microphones, battery connectors, SIM cards, and phone cases are also reusable.
Appliance retailers often offer trade-in deals for refrigerators, which have many parts that can be salvaged. Some microwave oven components can also be reused, but the recycle rate isn't nearly as high for this kitchen appliance. Microwaves are typically made from either stainless steel or galvanized steel, both of which are recyclable. A microwave's internal gears, motors, and other hardware may be salvaged and recycled. It's just a matter of consumers recognizing this recyclability and disposing the appliance at a recycling center rather than tossing it in a garbage can.
Monitors, keyboards, plastic casings, cables, copper in electronic cords, and all other computer parts composed of metal, glass, or plastic can be recycled. When recycled, these parts are melted down and reused to make new parts in re-manufacturing processes. Recycling computers keeps such harmful toxins as lead, mercury, and zinc out of landfills, thereby reducing the environmental burden. In addition, parts made from recycled computers are often more affordable.