In today’s world, only around 17% of all electronic waste is recycled. The Youtube channel, Business Insider, investigates an electronic waste recycling plant based in the city of La Vergne, Tennessee to give viewers an inside view of how the process is done.
The plant has several customers ranging from electronics companies, insurance companies, banks, and businesses that choose not to be publicly disclosed.
Most waste is actually either repurposed, re-engineered, or reused for newer electronics. Parts that are reusable, such as motherboards, memory units, screens, processors, and keyboards have to be removed using large amounts of manual labor. Some parts such as hard drives from insurance companies have sensitive information on them, and have to be wiped before being repurposed.
Recycling is only used as a last resort. Many electronics need to have hazardous materials, such as lead, cadmium, and mercury removed via “demanufacturing.” All the other materials are separated by specialized machines.
In 2019, around 57 billion dollars of electronic waste was sent to landfills. Despite the potential profits, electronic waste recycling is expensive, and current electronics are very hard to recycle. A possible solution involves manufacturing using less hazardous materials, making recycling much easier.