Why recycle your used electronics?

Every two years or so we get new phones. Every five years, new computers. Every ten years, new TVs. Within the last decade, we’ve been asked not to just throw the old ones out, but to recycle them responsibly. Is this just another sham or is it worth something?

Let’s look at two points of view, one from each side of the “spectrum.” We have a policy here to respect other people’s opinions so there’s no point in getting political. But certainly, there are two different points of view here.

If you’re the sort of person who thinks it’s important to take an active role in preserving the environment, it probably isn’t going to take a lot to convince you to recycle electronics. All the same, you should know that most electronics are filled with lead, arsenic, mercury, and other poisonous metals. You should probably know that heavy metal mining is very harmful to local flora and fauna and that it’s usually done in third-world countries where they don’t have safety precautions. On the other hand, US law says that all electronics that are turned in for recycling in the US must be dismantled in the US under strict laws. That means a lot less damage to the environment.

Now let’s say you’re the sort of person who believes that a strong country comes from strong businesses and a strong economy. You might feel that the threat to the environment is overstated, based on data you’ve been provided. Does that mean you shouldn’t want to recycle? Keep this in mind: reclaiming heavy metals from electronics in the US provides jobs here. Over time, reusing the same heavy metals over and over is less expensive than mining them. Mining is usually done in other countries, without any positive effect on the US economy. Electronics dismantling is a growing industry and it’s a profitable one that employs both skilled and unskilled laborers.

When it comes to electronics recycling, it really is something both sides can agree on.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.