E-Waste Recycling Is a Complete Sham

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It's pretty damn scary to think that almost forty percent of the electronics recyclers in the US fall into the scam recycling category. I knew things were bad, and we've all seen the images from overseas of massive piles of burning computer parts, but I didn't know it was this bad. :(

Real, environmentally sustainable electronics recycling can be profitable only if recycling companies charge a fee to take on old machines; the sale of recycled materials rarely if ever covers the actual cost of recycling in the United States. Companies, governments, and other organizations have a requirement to recycle old machines; because there is little oversight or enforcement, a secondary industry of fake recyclers has popped up to undercut sustainable recyclers. These “recyclers,” which advertise themselves as green and sustainable, get paid pennies per pound to take in old TVs, computers, printers, and monitors. Rather than recycle them domestically, the recycling companies sell them to junkyards in developing nations, either through middlemen or directly.
 

DocSavage

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Color me shocked.

About a mile from me is a real recycler that will take computers for about $2/each (as in they pay me $2), and they really do recycle the things. What they won't take are monitors or printers. I just chuck that shit in the dumpster.

There's also a place that's supposedly green( Surplus Exchange ), but they charge recycling fees like $10/monitor.
 

Gigus Fire

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You call it a sham, but i'm fairly sure that's how it's supposed to work.
Who's really at fault? the consumers who purchase more than they need and are wasteful? The companies which undercut the sustainable ones? The developing country's who accept the trash and fill up their space?
There's really no innocent people here.

Now you're going to tell me that clean energy credits really work.
 

Krixon

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You call it a sham, but i'm fairly sure that's how it's supposed to work.
Who's really at fault? the consumers who purchase more than they need and are wasteful? The companies which undercut the sustainable ones? The developing country's who accept the trash and fill up their space?
There's really no innocent people here.

Now you're going to tell me that clean energy credits really work.
QFT

e-waste is unfortunately a result of consumers who continually want more/better gadgets, an industry that is happy to supply them, and countries desperate enough for cash that they'll accept damage to their environment.
 

Bandalo

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A few years from now, you can expect a "recycling fee" to be tagged onto every monitor, TV, cell phone and computer part you buy.
 

Krixon

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A few years from now, you can expect a "recycling fee" to be tagged onto every monitor, TV, cell phone and computer part you buy.
In California, we've had that since 2005. Adds up to about ~$5 last time I checked - if your screen in between 15 and 35 inches.
 

AK0tA

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Our entire global govermet is a scam, this world is run by greed. You, me and the rest of us poor saps are just a number and a slave to big money.
 

Armenius

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Reading this reminds me of the beginning of "Attack of the Killer App" from Futurama, when all e-waste is taken to the "Third World" to be "recycled."
 

Tweak42

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As someone who's tries to consistently recycle old computer stuff since the early 2000's this does not surprise me. It's gotten better in collection area, here in California residents whine a bitch about the recycle tax, but the trade off is there are now decent number of recycling places turn in e-waste for free. Before that you either had to pay a company to accept e-waste or surreptitiously leave it in the dumpster behind a local business.

On the flip side we are increasingly generating more and more small e-waste with all these disposable personal electronic gadgets with non replaceable batteries.
 

nutzo

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My favorite E-Waste recycling center is my trash can.
Illegal in California. You could end up with a big fine if you get caught.
Technically you could get fined for throwing a happy meal toy in the trash if it has a battery and circuit board in it.

Luckily we have Goodwill (a charity) which will take working or non working electronics for free. You can even deduct the fair market value as a donation.
They resell or repair the better donations or stripe them for parts and recycle what's left.

My office building sponsors a collection every year. I usually have a few cart loads of old systems, UPS's ext.
Much easier to haul them out to the front of the building than to pile them in the car and take them somewhere.
 

nutzo

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e-waste is unfortunately a result of consumers who continually want more/better gadgets, an industry that is happy to supply them, and countries desperate enough for cash that they'll accept damage to their environment.
And an equal part of the blame goes to companies that design products that are difficult/expensive/impossible to repair, or are not built to last.

I still have desktops at home I first built 10+ years ago that have been upgraded over the years.
 

Krixon

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And an equal part of the blame goes to companies that design products that are difficult/expensive/impossible to repair, or are not built to last.

I still have desktops at home I first built 10+ years ago that have been upgraded over the years.
This too. Compounding this problem are people who refuse to learn how to upgrade/repair electronics because it is easier to just go buy a new one.
 

NickJames

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I tell my mom Best Buy will take all her old electronics and recycle it so she can feel better about tossing it out otherwise she'll hoard everything.
 

DKS

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Sounds like the model is broken. In Ontario, Canada, we pay a recycling fee at time of purchase on all computers, copiers, TV's and peripherals. That pays for recycling costs. Seems to work.
 

Bobert

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It looks like the study targeted low value parts though, so maybe this study is a worst case scenario?

Puckett said that BAN specifically attached GPS trackers to low-value, highly toxic electronics because things like LCD monitors, printers, and CRT televisions are hardest things to recycle and are thus most likely to simply be shipped elsewhere.
“We knew the stuff we were tracking has low commodity value that’s seen as junk in the industry,” he said. “This stuff is a real pain in the ass, and you have to be very careful about how you’re recycling them.”
 

westrock2000

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Reading this reminds me of the beginning of "Attack of the Killer App" from Futurama, when all e-waste is taken to the "Third World" to be "recycled."
I just assumed everyone already knew this.

Just burn 'em. Whats the worst that could happen?



Don't worry kid, America will give you a job.



This is the reality of human life. It sucks when your looking down from way up here.
 

Tweak42

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Sounds like the model is broken. In Ontario, Canada, we pay a recycling fee at time of purchase on all computers, copiers, TV's and peripherals. That pays for recycling costs. Seems to work.
I wouldn't say it's completely broken, more like full of loopholes that shady companies are still actively exploiting and we as the public need to be constantly vigilant to bring the type of change that doesn't come overnight.

Does that recycling fee cover all of Canada or just Ontario?
 

sfsuphysics

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Only 40% of ewaste companies just move the landfills in poor nations? Wow, I'm shocked it's that low.

Now we'll just wait for someone to jump to the conclusion all eWaste recycling is a scam, as they throw everything in the garbage.

Even so, I'm more than happy that if my toxic crap is going to be dumped in a landfill, it's a landfill over on the other side of the Pacific and not in my own backyard.
 

Master_shake_

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road to hell and all that.

green fees and eco fees have always been nothing more than a cash grab.
 

nilepez

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And an equal part of the blame goes to companies that design products that are difficult/expensive/impossible to repair, or are not built to last.
I still have desktops at home I first built 10+ years ago that have been upgraded over the years.
Sure, but where do those old Motherboards go? Where does your old (possibly working) monitor go? What about that old PCI Sound Blaster? Old Hard drives? Printers?
Looking at printers, the main reason I replace them is because newer tech prints better (especially back when I printed pictures at home). Maybe my HP printer died at some point (can't remember), but the Epson outlived it's usefulness (because I now use professional print houses...cheaper and better quality).

There's no doubt that somethings aren't made to be fixed. Such items should be heavily taxed. An example is an old back massager from Brookstone. I've had several of them and 2 things go wrong:
  1. the neoprene cover gets warn on the inside causing the massage things to get caught up in the shredded neoprene.
  2. the plastic massage thing breaks where it connects to the metal spindle breaks.

There's nothing you can do about 1, because there's no way to replace it.
2 can be fixed if you have an old massager that was replaced because of 1.

In most cases, you're tossing something that could easily be fixed if it wasn't designed to be replaced whenever something goes wrong.
 

Quix

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I thought this was common knowledge. There are so many articles and documentaries about electronics recycling companies. If you're not paying them to recycle your stuff, it's definitely a scam and even if you're paying there is still a very high chance it's a scam. There are very few regulations and most of the companies are just dumping the stuff overseas or recycling the 5-10% that makes sense and dumping the rest. Businesses will operate in the most profitable legal way and that's it. Electronics recycling isn't very profitable, unless you're using 3rd world labour AND don't have to follow safety regulations.
 

Xrave

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I tell my mom Best Buy will take all her old electronics and recycle it so she can feel better about tossing it out otherwise she'll hoard everything.
This is what I do since Best Buy takes it for free.

That being said, since they are free, and if you go off of what the article says, does Best Buy just sell/ship it to some landfill? I'm in CA so I would hope the e-waste tax I pay on electronics actually means the shit I turn in for recycling, since it's free to turn in, actually gets recycled.
 

Dead Parrot

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Example of problem: A friend had two dead laptops of the same model. I was able to make one good one from the pair. The pile of parts left over is mostly plastic with a few ounces of circuit board, one lcd panel, some random bits of metal and a large amount of various plastic parts. Given all of the "be nice to the environment" laws we have in the US, no way is it profitable to do much here. May grind it up and suck off the magnetic metals. The cost of transporting it to a processing plant would cost more in fuel then the value of recovered parts after complying with all of the laws on transporting and processing hazardous waste.

So a lot of it gets loaded onto ships going elsewhere, much probably classified as general scrap. The rest winds up in landfills.
 

-PK-

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Yeah, one of my local e-waste recyclers takes electronics for free, including LCDs, except for CRTs which are $10. They post a suggested donation amount of $2, and I always assumed that the owner just pockets the cash. At least now I'm able to confirm that the location they're forwarding their recycling to is on the list and it's all getting shipped to China.

I always break down unusable electronics into piles of plastic, metal scrap, PCBs/cords. I recycle the plastic and metal with the normal recycling, and try to find a place that recycles PCBs, cords, and digital media. I don't feel as bad now knowing that I've kept most of it out of a landfill. I'd rather have a recycling fee added to the purchase price, but I'm guessing those fees would be misappropriated too.
 

DocSavage

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QFT

e-waste is unfortunately a result of consumers who continually want more/better gadgets, an industry that is happy to supply them, and countries desperate enough for cash that they'll accept damage to their environment.
I figure by the time resources become rare, trash piles will become gold mines.
 

Shintai

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Recycling works fine in my country. Just get the law makers and regulations on the field.
 

FrgMstr

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HardOCP is working with a national company now to start coordinating events in the future to promote responsible E-waste recycling.
 

dgz

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Color me shocked.

About a mile from me is a real recycler that will take computers for about $2/each (as in they pay me $2), and they really do recycle the things. What they won't take are monitors or printers. I just chuck that shit in the dumpster.

There's also a place that's supposedly green( Surplus Exchange ), but they charge recycling fees like $10/monitor.
That's exactly what is said in the article - electronic waste recycling can't be profitable if nobody's paying. Not everything is cheap to recycle.

Sending huge amounts of garbage to distant places is why people, in general, don't care. People don't realize what they are doing because they don't have to live with the consequences.

Then again, I know plenty of people who don't really mind living in a dumpster so long as it's clean at home :/
 

DocSavage

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Then again, I know plenty of people who don't really mind living in a dumpster so long as it's clean at home :/
+1 to that. I have a neighbor whose back yard is adjacent to mine, but he's around the corner on the intersecting street and the second house away from the corner lot. I have caught him carrying and dumping tubs of raked leaves on my street so that his street and yard will look nice. I don't even get how he can do that with a conscience.
 

Ragenrok

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I wouldn't say it's completely broken, more like full of loopholes that shady companies are still actively exploiting and we as the public need to be constantly vigilant to bring the type of change that doesn't come overnight.

Does that recycling fee cover all of Canada or just Ontario?
I think its all of Canada, we have the same fee's in Alberta as well. You can take your electronics to the Dump and they have a building/Center just for them that they use to sort and process for recycling.
 
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This honestly is such a multi faceted cluster fuck that there's not a clear cut way to resolve the issue. Part of it is consumer habits, constant techonology improvements, and planned obsolescence. Personally, I will not buy a device unless it can be taken apart and repaired or replaced easily. My current phone turns 5 years old in November. It is on its fourth battery, but it still amazingly works with minimal issues. Phones now are moving away from replacable batteries and expandable storage. Along the same lines, certain mac book pros only provide memory that is soldered onto the motherboard and non-replacable. The article did surprise me though with the amount of crap that just straight up got shipped to China. Obviously, they're making a profit on the parts otherwise they wouldn't go through the process, but I'd love to see the logistics behind it, because it can't be cheap to ship all that junk.
 
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A few years from now, you can expect a "recycling fee" to be tagged onto every monitor, TV, cell phone and computer part you buy.
Where I live this has already been done for years. Holy shit, people paying to dispose of the things they buy. What a concept.
 

c3k

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In an effort to make the millenials in my company feel good, because that feeling is so important to them, I have declared a green campaign. I am using environmentally sound, renewable methodology, and energy savung systems to recycle all old emails. I have them forward all their old emails to me, and I then use environmentally safe systems to remove all the color. I then let them know that the company only sources new, blank, email from 100% post consumer old emails. That way we're green and I tell them the value added content of what we do is the same as 13% of their pay.

They are so much happier.
 

Evil Penguin

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This honestly is such a multi faceted cluster fuck that there's not a clear cut way to resolve the issue. Part of it is consumer habits, constant techonology improvements, and planned obsolescence. Personally, I will not buy a device unless it can be taken apart and repaired or replaced easily. My current phone turns 5 years old in November. It is on its fourth battery, but it still amazingly works with minimal issues. Phones now are moving away from replacable batteries and expandable storage. Along the same lines, certain mac book pros only provide memory that is soldered onto the motherboard and non-replacable. The article did surprise me though with the amount of crap that just straight up got shipped to China. Obviously, they're making a profit on the parts otherwise they wouldn't go through the process, but I'd love to see the logistics behind it, because it can't be cheap to ship all that junk.
That's one of the reasons I'm sticking to flagship LG phones or other brands that offer user-replaceable batteries.
 
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