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Spas Recycling Corporation
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E-Waste Recycling Company
E-Waste Recycling Company

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Electronics waste disposal process
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E-waste expose

Let's begin at the beginning, with our voracious appetite for new technology. Smartphones, those ubiquitous devices glued to our hands at every moment, are a perfect example. According to an article in Forbes, 51% of iPhone users upgrade their devices every two years, along with 40% of android users. Not only that but only 47% of iPhone users and 58% of their Android-loving counterparts say they'd wait until their phone was entirely obsolete or non-functional before replacing it.

What this means is not only are most of us we burning through a new smartphone every 24 months but the old ones, the ones hanging around in junk drawers or even headed to electronics recycling, are still perfectly useable technology, but because they're not the latest and greatest, we're tossing them to the curb.

It's not just our teeny-tiny phones, either. American consumers are replacing their ever-larger televisions approximately every four or five years, according to some industry estimates, a time span which may come to more closely resemble the two-year replacement cycle of smartphone users as HDTV technology continues to improve and prices continue to drop.

Phones, TV's, gaming systems, home computers, laptops, printers, scanners, cameras - our lives are filled with technology from our sleekest devices all the way down to the lowly microwave, and some estimate that fewer than 20% of our electronics are recycled.

As we replace these items more and more frequently, they've almost become disposable objects. Constructed with a short lifespan in mind (planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence), it's only a manner of time before they end up in the recycling depot, or worse, the landfill (that is, when they eventually make it there. The EPA estimates that as much as 75% of our e-waste is languishing in the nation's closets and attics, waiting to be disposed of.)
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Let's assume that we're discussing an individual who does choose to dispose of their electronics in a responsible way (as we all do, right?), where on earth do they take it? At the time of writing, 27 states have passed e-waste laws requiring that electronic devices be diverted from landfills and incinerators and disposed of properly at e-waste recycling centers. This is fantastic news!

And, even if you're in one of the 22 states lacking such progressive environmental legislation you can still access recycling programs through popular big-box electronics retailers like Best Buy and Staples, who offer recycling programs in their stores across the country. Some even offer financial incentives to sweeten the deal, things like discounts on future purchases. (And hey! If you're not sure where to recycle your electronics, check out our handy recycling guide to find a location in your area!)

So, you clean out your garage and end up with a box of defunct electronics. You do the right thing, take them to your local recycling center and drop the box off with a smile - what happens next?

Some e-waste recycling centers like the like the Lower East Side Ecology Center inspect all drop-off's and then repair, refurbish and sell functional electronics that come their way. What can't be refurbished or repaired is typically wrapped up and transported to a processing plant which removes dangerous components like tube TV screens and batteries. They then shred the remaining items and sort them based on material.

This material sorting is sometimes done by real live humans, but other times space-age optical sorters are used. These employ a laser to decipher differences between plastic, metal, and computer chips, and sorts them into appropriate bins. The bins of materials are then sold to buyers.
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Exponential growth of e‑waste
Today, e‑waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams. According to “Recycling — from E‑Waste to Resources”, a report released by the United Nations Environment Programme in February 2010, China’s e‑waste from old computers will have jumped 200-400 per cent by 2020 from 2007 levels, and 500 per cent in India. Also, e‑waste from discarded mobile phones in China will be about 7 times higher by 2020 than the 2007 level, and 18 times higher in India.
In the United States in 2007, Americans owned almost 3 billion electronic products. The United States is one of the largest producers of e‑waste in the world. In 2005, approximately 61 per cent or 107 500 tonnes of the cathode ray tubes, monitors and televisions collected for recycling were exported for “remanufacture and refurbishment”. But there is now a lack of basic data on shipments of electronics from the United States to other countries. In the United Kingdom, an average person is likely to consume three tonnes of electrical and electronic equipment in their lifetime.
Paradoxically, it is the success of telecommunications and ICT that has spurred the increase in e‑waste. New devices are needed, for example, because of the transition from analogue to digital terrestrial television, the migration from second generation mobile communication networks to third generation (and soon fourth generation) networks, and — in the computing and information sub-sector — the demand for equipment with faster processing speed, larger memory and thinner (liquid crystal or thin film technology) display units.
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A cyber-age nightmare

Unmarked shipments containing electronic waste make their way to Asia, Africa (particularly West Africa) and other parts of the world that lack the capacity to prevent illegal imports or to safely recycle electronics. These digital dumping grounds are located primarily in Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan, India and China. For example, an estimated 500 containers, each 40 feet long, are shipped to Lagos, Nigeria, every month. Although Lagos has a robust market for repairing and refurbishing old electronic equipment (including computers, monitors, televisions and mobile phones), local experts complain that three-quarters of the imports are useless “junk”.
Because of the use of toxic materials in the manufacture of electronic goods, e‑waste can cause widespread environmental damage. In developing countries, no special precautions are taken in handling and recycling the waste to avoid the known adverse effects. Informal recyclers — often children and women — handle the goods manually, without protective clothing or appropriate equipment. Exposure to heavy metals, toxic gases and plastic additives affect human health.
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E-waste: Whose responsibility?
Who can resist the appeal of a sleek new electronic toy? But what happens to the clunky phones, slow computers and bulky television sets that we discard? Electronic devices that run information and communication technologies (ICT) have penetrated every aspect of modern life. When they are no longer wanted, they become what we call in this article “e-waste”.In the industrialized world, e‑waste is end-of-life ICT equipment, which may still be in working order. From a developing country perspective, it can offer an affordable way to join the information society. The green mantra — reduce, reuse, recycle — should point the way to a sustainable e‑ecosystem. But the reality is somewhat different, as we shall see.
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India, a victim of e-waste crime

"Exporting e-waste to Asia worked out 10 times cheaper than processing it in within these countries."

Much of the 40 million tonnes of electronic waste produced around the world — old smartphones, TVs, laptops and obsolete kitchen appliances — finds its way illegally to Asia and Africa every year, says a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Close to 90 per cent of the world’s electronic waste — worth nearly $19 billion — is illegally traded or dumped each year, to destinations half way across the world. While the European Union the U.S. and Japan are the primary origins of e-waste shipments, China, India, Malaysia and Pakistan are the main destinations, says the report. In Africa, Ghana and Nigeria are the biggest recipients of e-waste.

Destination India
Illegal trade is driven by the relatively low costs of shipment and the high costs of treatment in the developed countries. Quoting an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study, the UNEP report says that exporting e-waste to Asia worked out 10 times cheaper than processing it in within these countries.

The Indian subcontinent has turned into an important destination for European waste. This goes beyond e-waste to include household waste, metals, textiles and tires — which are exported to India and Pakistan, says the report “Waste Crimes, Waste Risks: Gaps and Challenges in the Waste Sector.”

“There is a significant trade in compressors to Pakistan. These should be depolluted prior to export, but waste operators seeking to avoid expense often omit this step,” the report notes.

‘Toxic time bomb’
The vast majority of illegal e-waste ends up in landfills, incinerators, and in ill-equipped recycling facilities. “The waste is dumped in areas where local residents and workers disassemble the units and collect whatever is of value... What is not reusable is simply dumped as waste, creating immense problems and leading to what has been described as a ‘toxic time bomb’.”

While Europe and North America are by far the largest producers of e-waste, Asia’s cities are fast catching up as consumers of electronic goods and as generators of e-waste. In China, for instance, 73.9 million computers, 0.25 billion mobile phones, and 56.6 million televisions were sold in 2011, the report says. Forecasts say that in just two years, the total quantum of e-waste generated around the world will be 50 million tonnes.
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