How Electronic and Electrical Items Are Recycled

Most people understand that recycling is no longer optional, but required. They may be used to separating household waste into its different baskets and take the entire procedure as second nature. However, the treatment of waste electronic and electrical equipment may be a different matter entirely. How are these complicated products recycled?

The Principles

The fundamentals involved in the recycling of electronic and electrical equipment are much the same as those involved in any other material, apart from the fact that hazardous items (of which there could be many) have to be stripped out first. The aim is to reuse as many of the different materials within, as possible.

Working on Large Items

For example, if you have a washing machine that has outlived its welcome, it first needs to be decontaminated. Electrical components are removed (including all cables) and then other items such as plastics, ballasts and compounds are separated before being recovered.

Certain large appliances contain dangerous or restricted fluids or gases. In the case of a fridge freezer, for example, hydrofluorocarbons and similar ozone-depleting substances could be present and these are banned. They have to be retrieved and treated in specific recovery plans. These elements can be found throughout the appliance, including within insulation foam.

Handling Smaller Appliances

When it comes to smaller domestic appliances this is where it can all get very complicated. After all, this can cover a very wide range of items such as toasters, vacuum cleaners, computer keyboards, power tools and toys. Often, these items have to be manually handled in order to identify the separate components and pull them apart. From that point, mechanical systems are used to separate coarse ferrous and nonferrous elements from fine materials. A picking station will be manned by staff to identify and segregate hazardous components and to take out items like capacitors or batteries. Then, what's left is put through a granulation process to strip each particular metal.

What about Televisions?

As flatscreen LED TVs become the rage, people often throw out cathode-ray tube (old-style) sets which contain hazardous powder, as well as leaded glass. The tube itself has to be removed by hand, before the final glass is separated. The coating on that particular element is also removed and the glass is kept for new manufacture.

Doing Your Bit

So, when you look at it this way, you should conclude that your contribution is the easy part. Make sure that you get in touch with the appropriate recycling centre, so that you can push your unwanted electrical items in the right direction.