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Let me ask you a simple question: how many cell phones have you had over the years? For some of us, upgrades are a yearly occurrence. For others possibly bi-yearly. Have you ever wondered where your old cell phone goes after it is out of your hands?
Recycling is an important, but commonly forgotten topic in today’s digital age. Electrical devices are not something that can be mixed into your local landfill. It is a very toxic, hazardous waste. In various states across the US, it is actually illegal to dispose of electronics in the trash. So why is this?
Inside of most electrical devices, you’ll find common materials such as aluminum, copper, and sometimes gold. Aluminum is typically used to create the structure of these electrical devices. It is a very common, strong, lightweight material. Copper and gold are excellent conductors and very resistant to corrosion when housed correctly. However, contained within most electrical devices are also toxic elements and materials. Sulfur, mercury, lead, chromium, beryllium oxide, cadmium; some or all of these could be lurking in that computer monitor you’re about to send off to the local landfill.
As you might imagine with the ever-growing amount of electrical devices, there isn’t one set in stone procedure for all of this waste. There are also devices which most people do not even consider to be e-waste but should not be thrown away. When devices are sent away, typically they are crushed into as small of a space as possible. In this process, toxic chemicals and materials become exposed. Electrical devices typically need to be disassembled in order to be disposed of safely. E-waste is typically sent to processing plants which specialize in disassembling these products. While this is a safer route -- deconstructing these products is still a dangerous task. Let’s take a look at one example.
In the manufacturing industry, recalls are not uncommon. Devices are typically rigorously tested before leaving the plant, but what happens when a fatal flaw appears? This is exactly what happened with the Samsung Note 7. While models were quickly pulled from shelves, the batteries that powered them still are used in a variety of products. These batteries became notorious for short circuiting, which led to them combusting or even exploding. These devices required manual disassembling.
Workers at the recycling plant were in charge of disassembling these potentially dangerous devices. They were equipped with heavy duty gloves, tongs, and even fire containment bins. What makes these devices different from the AA batteries you change every few months in your TV remote, is the fact that they are lithium ion batteries. These contain thousands of connected cells meaning they have an incredible amount of potential energy. This is why they can be so destructive.
Different battery technologies are enabling consumers to have longer lasting, more powerful devices. Whether it’s your new and improved battery in your smartphone, or your battery powered lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, or even the self-balancing hover board you purchased for Tim’s 12th birthday that just broke; these electrical devices need to be handled responsibly.
So, what do you do? Recycle battery powered devices, or dispose of them?
All devices, whether it’s your outdated cell phone, your undersized computer monitor, or even your in-home appliances -- all should be handled properly if you decide their product life has expired. You don’t know what toxic material is lurking in the underbelly of your device, and when dealing with your environment waste plant workers lives; it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If the time has come and replacing office devices has become imminent, Digital Seattle can help. Our professionals have the know-how to make sure you are disposing of your devices safely and in a responsible manner, without risking losing or exposing critical data. Call (206) 709-9556 to learn more.