Monday, April 30, 2012

Don't give your trash collector your High Tech Trash

E-waste.  High Tech Trash.  Did you know in Japan almost all of it is recycled.  In the US almost all of it goes to the land fill.  Why are we throwing away the richest ore stream in the world?

10 to 20 ounces of gold per ton is in this stuff.  No gold mine in the world has ore that rich.  It also has large amounts of silver, hugh amounts of copper, some aluminum, platinum and trace amounts of rare exotics.  It also contains hugh amounts of lead, mercury, fire retardants and dozens of highly poison and crippling chemicals.

Where is it? Computers, cell phones, microwaves, copiers, fax machines, DVD players, TV's, music players of every sort large and tiny, coffee makers, alarm radios, hair dryer, pocket calculators, game player, GPS, digital camera, batteries, ect.  We each have 20 to 70 of these things and throw one out every few weeks.

There are a number of firms in the US processing this, but it's a drop in the bucket, Europe is processing far more, and safely.  Asia is the destination for much of this, but rather than in grinders and furnaces it's done with kids burning and cooking down components, killing them. Well that's an issue, but for us the issue is to handle it safely in our community.  On a recent trip to Arkansas I passed a house surrounded by junk cars, not unusual there, but I noticed a half dozen TV's and old computers laying in the weeds, not good, nor is sending it to landfills.

The materials in these devices cannot be gotten out by you or me, taking them apart is even dangerous, break a circuit board and you get showered by microscopic doses of mercury, lead and fire retardant chemicals and heavy metals.  You have got to turn them over to a recycler.  A few appliance stores will take them back, a few manufactures will pay shipping, but for the most part you need to keep your eyes peeled for a community recycle day, or like I have near my home a recycle center, though they only take computers cell phones copiers and fax machines and batteries, at least it's a start.  I stop over there 2 or 3 times a year with my contribution.

Recycling of is a hugh net savings to the world when dealing with dangerous metals and chemicals, material used to produce a "chip" amounts to 630 times the mass of the final product.  As a teenager a friend of mine had a TV in the pasture, we set it on a brush pile, lit it on fire and threw bricks at it till the hot thing broke.  What a disaster, though we didn't know, those old TV's had several pounds of lead dust in them, and mercury vapor.  Breaking it in a roaring fire updraft surely was a disaster we made unaware of.  By the way, mercury floats for 1 year, no part of the world is without mercury pollution, it's found in polar bears.


  1. What would be cool is if some entrepreneurial type saw opportunity in this.

  2. NAC, there are a few companies re processing, they shred then put them in a furnace and out runs metal. The metals are processed into copper bars and gold bars and so on, or are sent on in some semi raw form onto another processor who can separate the many metals. There is also the metal and plastic they take off it for recycling.
    These plants are really expensive to build, one of the largest here is run by a Canadian mining company, and they say it's their richest vane of ore in the world.
    But in the US there is little effort or awarness or even belief that this is worthy of doing, the few laws being observed in the industry are mostly European standards and laws, since once it's broken down it may go anywhere in the world and the EU is one of the biggest players in the market, the US mostly spends its efforts in denying its a problem and fighting everything smelling of conservation, safety and reuse, even if for profit.
    A smashed cell phone in the gutter, washed into the river, times 2 billion devices with a circuit board in them in the US can and will surley increase the number of legs on frogs, heads on calves, nerve damage in kids, cancer in dogs.
    There are people going after this profit, I wish them well and I wish they would hurry it up.

    1. I did a "Rocky" after I tossed that 18 year old thing in the dumpster!

      You can't steal that from me!



    2. Sarge, not sure what you are talking about, but OK.

  3. There have been electronics recycling programs for years. Over six years ago, I took my very old, but still operable computer and printer to a recycling depot. Most of these will take most anything. I've also given operating radios/TVs to Goodwill. It's good to hear that some companies are finding a profit in taking pollution OUT of the environment!

  4. Cynthianne,
    Good, the best recycle plan (for those things still working) is reuse, such as Goodwill as you did.
    By the way, if you have a blog I would love to read it, but I can't seem to follow you to it. Any help available?

    1. I don't have a blog- I'm not a very verbal person, and stringing together three cogent sentences on any given topic pretty much exhausts my capabilities. I enjoy your blog because it usually gives me new ideas to think about, or a new way of thinking about old ideas. Thanks!


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