Global pollution is becoming more and more of a problem, and as the land and oceans become increasingly filled with man-made rubbish, so the move to recycle as much as possible grows more important and urgent. While much concern is being shown regarding our overuse of plastics and the devastating effect it can have to marine life once it gets into our waterways and beyond, another equally large, though lesser known problem is with growing amounts of our used electronics.

We live in a consumer age, where phones are normally discarded for a newer model every year or two, fridges, laptops, the list of electronic items we throw away just keeps growing and many of those electronics contain dangerous elements like, cadmium, lead and arsenic, meaning putting them into a landfill is really not a good idea. Those elements can get into our water and soil and contaminate plant and animal life, which can find its way into our food supply. In addition to dangerous metals and toxins, electronics also contain many valuable resources and materials including precious metals, copper, plastic and glass.

Why electronics recycling makes sense

Given the average concentration of gold, in a gold mine, is about five to six grams per ton, while a ton of old mobile phones contains around three hundred and fifty grams, extraction of this gold from garbage, makes an awful lot of sense. Recycling of metals can go on infinitely, which is not the case with plastics, which don’t necessarily retain the same mechanical characteristics.

Electronics contain lots of metals, like Iron, Copper and aluminium, with precious metals like silver, palladium and Iridium also found in smaller quantities, along with some “rare earth” metals, which are much harder to extract from their surrounding matter. Aside from the elements that can be recovered, with many electronics that no longer functions, many of its components are still working fine and can be reused, easier and cheaper than making new parts.

European legislation on electronics recycling

The European Union has introduced legislation regarding the recycling of electronics, which mean that recycling is essentially mandatory across Europe. The rules are the same for electrical recycling in Exeter as in Eindhoven, with the onus on the owner of the equipment manufactured before 2005, to be responsible for its recycling, and then on the manufacturer of products built after 2005, to be responsible for collection and subsequent recycling. Any company that has anything electrical is bound by the Waste Electrical and Electronics Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive), to ensure it is safely disposed of, within the constraints of the directive.

Electronics recycling specialist companies have sprung up everywhere, who have the skills, technology and understanding of the legislation to be able to properly deal with pretty much everything that comes along. Whatever used electrical equipment you have, from a phone or toaster, to a fridge or a washing machine, cannot just be dumped, it has to be disposed of properly. If you have any such equipment, either as a company, or a private individual, a quick Internet search will undoubtedly find electronics recycling professionals in your area, to whom you can deliver it, or arrange for them to come pick it up, knowing that by doing so, you are being legally compliant, while helping to conserve precious resources.